Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says U.S. election lawsuits alleging voter fraud, among other issues, have crossed the line -- and she’s calling for the attorneys behind them to be punished.
On Thursday, Jan. 28, Nessel filed a motion in federal court to sanction the lawyers who supported former President Donald Trump and his campaign in their effort to overturn the presidential election results in Michigan.
Filed on behalf of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, the motion claims that Texas attorney Sidney Powell -- a close ally of Trumps’ -- along with Michigan attorneys Greg Rohl of Novi, Stefanie Lambert Junttila of Detroit and Scott Hagerstrom of Lansing “knew or should have known that their legal claims were frivolous,” and said their lawsuit “was never about winning on the merits of the claims, but rather plaintiffs’ purpose was to undermine the integrity of the election results.”
“These lawyers must be held accountable for betraying the trust placed in them as members of the bar,” Nessel said. “Lawyers bear a special responsibility to uphold the rule of law, and these lawyers have done the opposite. By pursuing this suit that had no basis in either fact or law, they have only fueled the fire of distrust in our democracy that led to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. We are asking the court to enforce the rules and hold these lawyers to their oaths for the protection of the public and to restore faith in our system of law – a system they deliberately undermined.”
Led by the attorneys in question, the Michigan election lawsuit -- like dozens of others filed across the county -- pushed conspiracy theories and falsehoods about the election process and/or the counting of ballots during the presidential election. Without any evidence, nearly all of the claims made in Michigan and elsewhere were dismissed after not holding up in court.
Bipartisan officials, election officials and even members of former President Trump’s administration found that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Rohl said he joined the lawsuit in Michigan because something “just didn’t taste right.” When asked about his decision to represent his clients in the lawsuit, Rohl says he doesn’t have concerns nor did he care that he could potentially lose his law license.
“No. I don’t. Quite to the contrary I, you know, I believe that it’s incumbent on any attorney if they see some semblance of impropriety that they’re duty bound to do something about it,” he said.
Nessel had previously said she was looking into sanctions against attorneys in the broader election cases.
At the end of December, Nessel joined a number of officials in calling for sanctions against and to disbar the GOP attorneys involved in election lawsuits, or to at least ban them from courtrooms. The attorneys pushed falsehoods in court, baselessly claiming widespread voter fraud among other grievances without any evidence, in an effort change the results of the election in favor of Trump.
AG Nessel was also looking into sanctions against attorneys for a case in Michigan’s Antrim County, which baselessly alleged widespread voter fraud after a human error led to an early miscount in the county’s vote. The case pushed false claims about voting machines and software from the company Dominion. The attorney in that case, Matthew DePerno, has been a frequent guest of the far-right outlet Newsmax, a favorite of former President Trump’s.
Related: Michigan AG Dana Nessel weighs in on election, Enbridge lawsuits and more
Now-President Joe Biden won the 2020 election with 306 electoral votes, beating Trump’s 232.
In the motion filed Thursday, Nessel is asking the judge to force the attorneys in question to pay for legal fees of about $11,000. The Michigan AG’s latest action joins actions taken by Wayne County and Detroit attorneys, who have already filed for sanctions including barring the lawyers on the pro-Trump cases from practicing in Michigan or having them disbarred completely.
Nessel’s office said Thursday that it is in the process of evaluating complaints filed against the attorneys with the Attorney Grievance Commission of the State of Michigan and the State Bar of Texas. The AG’s office is seeing disciplinary action against the attorneys.
More: Michigan leaders move for sanctions against GOP attorneys in Trump election lawsuits
Click here to view the motion for sanctions filed on behalf of Whitmer and Benson on Thursday, or read it in the document below.