Michigan leaders move for sanctions against GOP attorneys in Trump election lawsuits

Michigan AG files motion for sanctions against 3 Michigan attorneys, Texas attorney Sidney Powell

Sidney Powell, right, speaks next to former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, as members of President Donald Trump's legal team, during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters, Thursday Nov. 19, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Jacquelyn Martin, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

LANSING, Mich. – Democratic Michigan officials are taking action against attorneys who supported former President Donald Trump and his campaign in their effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Thursday filed a motion for sanctions against three Michigan attorneys and one Texas attorney who “pursued a frivolous lawsuit in an effort to disenfranchise Michigan’s voters and undermine public trust in the outcome of the 2020 presidential election,” according to a press release.

On behalf of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Nessel filed a motion for sanctions against Michigan attorneys Greg Rohl, Scott Hagerstrom and Stefanie Junttila and Texas attorney Sidney Powell -- a close Trump ally. Filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, the motion seeks to recover attorneys fees of about $11,000.

“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.”

At the end of December, Nessel joined a number of officials in calling for sanctions against and to disbar the GOP attorneys involved in 2020 election lawsuits, or to at least ban them from courtrooms. The attorneys pushed falsehoods in court, falsely claiming widespread voter fraud among other grievances without any evidence, in an effort change the results of the election in favor of Trump. Now-President Joe Biden won the 2020 election with 306 electoral votes, beating Trump’s 232.

In December, the attorney for Wayne County, Robert Davis, called on the federal judge in Michigan’s Eastern District to sanction the lawyers for six Michigan Trump supporters who are suing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in an attempt to overturn the presidential election results. According to the motion, Davis said the attorneys violated codes of conduct by repeating falsehoods in court, at one point calling the suit “a deliberate and mean-spirited effort to undermine the will of the more than 5.5 million people.”

Davis’ filing came just after the city of Detroit asked the same judge that those lawyers, along with Sidney Powell, be forced to pay court costs, be banned from practicing law in Michigan and be referred to the state bar for grievance proceedings -- a move that could potentially lead to disbarment.

Read more: GOP attorneys could face sanctions over falsehoods pressed in Michigan election lawsuits

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.

“These are flagrant lies that Ms. Powell is submitting it to of all places the United States Supreme Court of all places in some cases. It’s disturbing and it undermines our entire profession, and she has to be held accountable,” Nessel said in an interview in December. “We’d be asking there be action taken against her law license including potentially disbarment.”

Nessel also previously said that she was looking at possible sanctions for an attorney in a case in Antrim County surrounding false claims about voting machines and software from the company Dominion. That attorney, 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

On Thursday, Nessel’s office said court filings in the election case King v. Whitmer were “legally frivolous and supported by false evidence” in their effort to overturn President Biden’s victory.

“The court swiftly denied the plaintiffs any relief on numerous grounds,” the press release continued. “Similar lawsuits were filed in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Arizona, and all failed. Attorneys Powell and Junttila went so far as to brazenly lie in a filing to the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming that the Michigan Legislature had endorsed competing slates of Republican and Democratic electors, when in reality, the Legislature’s leaders stood by the slate of electors chosen by Michigan’s voters.”

Majority of the lawsuits seeking to overturn the 2020 election results were shot down by courts across the country. Bipartisan officials, election officials and even members of former President Trump’s administration found that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Click here to view the motion for sanctions filed on behalf of Whitmer and Benson on Thursday, or read it in the document below.

Related: As Michigan Gov. Whitmer calls for unity, GOP lawmakers claim she shut them out

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.