Lawyers Call on Bar Associations to Condemn, Investigate Trump Legal Team

Rudolph Giuliani and Colorado’s Jenna Ellis among attorneys targeted by open letter

More than 1,600 attorneys around the country have signed an open letter calling on bar associations to condemn and investigate members of President Trump’s legal team for statements to the press and election-related lawsuits they say are meant to “undermine public confidence in the outcome of the 2020 election.”


The letter, which was organized by Lawyers Defending American Democracy, blasts the Trump campaign’s legal team, led by Rudolph Giuliani, for “falsely proclaiming voter fraud” in front of television cameras and “making speculative claims that judges quickly dismiss.” 

The Trump campaign and allies have filed roughly 50 lawsuits challenging the results of the 2020 election. As of last week, more than 35 had been rejected or withdrawn. 

“We condemn this conduct without reservation. It demeans the legal profession and the multitudes of lawyers of all political persuasions who daily serve their clients and the public honorably,” the letter states. 

“Our profession needs to affirm that this behavior grossly deviates from the bar’s deep commitment to democratic institutions and the fact-based processes that maintain our democracy’s vitality.”

The statement urges lawyers and bar associations to publicly condemn the conduct of Trump’s campaign lawyers and calls on bar disciplinary authorities to investigate possible violations of professional ethics rules.

“A license to practice law is not a license to lie to the public on behalf of a client, whether doing so endangers one individual or the entire body politic,” the letter states. 

“Indeed, American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct 4.1(a) and 8.4(c) put lawyers at risk of sanctions for engaging in dishonesty, deceit and misrepresentation — in or out of court. Under Rule 3.1, lawyers filing frivolous claims are also subject to sanctions.”

In addition to Giuliani, LDAD’s statement calls out Joseph DiGenova, Victoria Toensing, Sidney Powell and Colorado attorney Jenna Ellis for their statements to media and their role in the election-related litigation. 

Ellis has been the subject of national news coverage in recent weeks for her meteoric rise from a little-known defense attorney in Northern Colorado to legal advisor for the Trump campaign. According to The New York Times, Ellis’s work for the Trump campaign “appears to largely be in a public relations capacity” and her name does not appear on any of the election-related lawsuits. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Ellis had received nearly $140,000 from the campaign for “legal consulting.”

Signers of the letter include legal scholars, former judges and leaders of think tanks and policy centers. A least 70 Colorado attorneys have signed on in support of the statement. 

“When attempts are made to subvert a democracy and electoral system by ostensibly legal means, it is important to understand the role that lawyers play in the subversion. I’m grateful to the election and other state officials and judges who were not shaken or swayed from doing their jobs well,” Elizabeth Vonne, a Colorado attorney, said in an e-mail when asked about her decision to sign the letter.

KK DuVivier, professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, said she signed on to the statement in part because she’s sick of the legal profession getting a bad reputation. She said she asks her students every year why they came to law school, and almost all of them have altruistic reasons. “And yet the profession has got this terrible reputation,” DuVivier said. “And I think it’s because of things like this.”

“The court system should not be used as a toy that gives an unfair advantage to one side or the other,” DuVivier said. “The idea is that we do have rule of law in the United States. We’ve been respected worldwide for that. And I would hate for that to stop being the case.” 

—Jessica Folker

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