CHICAGO – The days of practicing law for the mob-busting prosecutor turned point man for pushing Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election may be over.
Rudy Giuliani’s law license has already been suspended in his home state. That suspension, in practice, may well amount to a national suspension.
A New York appeals court took the action in June, saying Giuliani's bid to discredit the election was so egregious that he poses “an immediate threat” to the public.
Here’s a look at the implications for the 77-year-old Giuliani:
WHAT’S THE RIPPLE EFFECT IN OTHER STATES?
States have an interest in weeding out lawyers deemed unethical. So when one state takes steps against a lawyer, other states typically take the same steps.
That means there will be few places, if any, where Giuliani will be able to practice law or appear in court on behalf of clients as long as his New York license is suspended.
States seek to mirror disciplinary actions of other states under what’s known as Rule 22 on reciprocal discipline, modeled on American Bar Association recommendations. All states have some version of it.
HOW ELSE WILL THE SUSPENSION STOP HIM FROM PRACTICING?
Lawyers don’t necessarily need a law license in a state to represent clients at a court hearing. They can file a motion asking a state or federal judge to grant them permission to participate. The motions — called pro hac vice, which means “for this occasion" in Latin — are regularly granted.
But lawyers, like Giuliani, who are no longer in good standing in their home states are unlikely to get the OK.
The importance of a clean disciplinary record was illustrated by Giuliani himself in litigation over the election.
Weeks after the Nov. 6 election, he was granted permission to represent Trump in a federal court in Pennsylvania, where he does not have a law license. It was granted based on his then-valid New York license.
In his motion, Giuliani listed multiple courts in which he was authorized to practice, including all courts in New York and the District of Columbia. As required, he also verified he’d never had his license suspended and was not the subject of any disciplinary process. That’s no longer true.
HAVE JURISDICTIONS OTHER THAN NEW YORK TAKEN ACTION?
Yes. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals in July pointed to the New York ruling in suspending Giuliani from practicing in D.C. courts — at least until the discipline procedures play out in New York. The two-page ruling cited the district’s reciprocal discipline rule requiring that it mirror the New York suspension.
Giuliani's law license had already been inactive in D.C., meaning he would have had to pay dues and apply to start practicing in the city anyway. The D.C. court ruling means that, even if he wanted to, he can no longer seek to practice in the city.
New York requires that lawyers whose licenses are suspended in the state themselves notify regulatory bodies in other states. It’s unclear if Giuliani has done so for all the states in which he holds a law license.
Regulators can also learn about a suspension in another state via a national database managed by the ABA. As of Wednesday, there was no record of Giuliani’s suspension in New York. The normal notification process can take several weeks.
WHAT REASON DID NEW YORK GIVE FOR THE SUSPENSION?
The New York appeals court said Giuliani not only made false statements but may have made them knowing they were false.
Among the examples it gave were Giuliani’s claims that thousands of votes in Philadelphia were cast in the names of people who were dead, including, he asserted, deceased former boxing champion Joe Frazier.
WHAT’S NEXT IN THE NEW YORK PROCESS?
The New York court is expected to make a final decision on Giuliani’s license after additional depositions, hearings and testimony. That mostly confidential process could take months, even years.
For now, the suspension is considered interim. A final ruling could include a fixed-term suspension or disbarment for Giuliani. A simple reprimand would also be an option.
The tough language of the court’s June ruling, though, suggests Giuliani could be looking at the most severe sanction, said Bruce Green, director of the Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics at the Fordham University School of Law.
“Having read the court’s opinion, I would say the chances (of disbarment) are pretty good,” he said.
HOW HAS GIULIANI RESPONDED?
Giuliani suggested to WABC-AM that the New York court’s decision was part of an effort “to shut me up.” He added: “They want Giuliani quiet.”
In filings before the court ruled, Giuliani said his statements on the election were protected by the First Amendment and that he didn’t knowingly make false statements.
Giuliani’s lawyers have said they are confident his license will be restored after a fuller hearing of the issues.
HOW HARD WILL THE SUSPENSION HIT GIULIANI?
He will no longer be able to step up and lead battles in court on Trump's behalf. With most other attorneys balking at Trump's post-election legal theories, Trump relied heavily on Giuliani's eagerness and, some would argue, lack of scruples to help.
Otherwise, Giuliani hasn't shown much enthusiasm for courtroom work. Before he began representing Trump in litigation over vote counting, court records indicate Giuliani had not appeared in court as an attorney since 1992.
The suspension of his law license may not directly impact his lobbying work or business as a security consultant. But it adds to the reputational damage for Giuliani, whose widely praised work as a U.S. attorney in New York City had helped him become the city's mayor.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER TRUMP LAWYERS?
A federal judge in Michigan is considering whether to order fines or other penalties against several of them, including Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood.
They had brought a lawsuit alleging votes for Trump were destroyed or switched to votes for Joe Biden. The suit was dropped after a judge found nothing but “speculation and conjecture” in the filing.
Wood’s name was on the lawsuit, but he said he had no role other than to tell Powell he’d be available if she needed help. Powell has said it was “the duty of lawyers and the highest tradition of the practice of law to raise difficult and even unpopular issues.”