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Judge sanctions group of pro-Trump attorneys in dramatic fashion

When a judge concludes that your case was so ridiculous that you clearly require more schooling, it's a bad sign.

It's one thing for a group of conspiracy-minded lawyers, loyal to Donald Trump, to lose after bringing misguided litigation to court. It's something else when those lawyers face sanctions because they brought misguided litigation to court. NBC News reported yesterday:

A federal judge Wednesday sanctioned some of former President Donald Trump's attorneys who unsuccessfully challenged Michigan's 2020 election results. In a blistering 110-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Linda Parker in Michigan imposed sanctions on Sidney Powell, Lin Wood and other lawyers involved in making claims about election fraud in the state.

For those who may need a refresher, let's circle back to our earlier coverage to review how we arrived at this point.

In the aftermath of Trump's 2020 defeat, his allied lawyers filed all kinds of strange lawsuits, including one in Michigan that peddled a variety of absurdities, effectively asking the judiciary to set aside President Joe Biden's victory in the state and award Michigan's electoral votes to the Republican ticket. A judge concluded in December that the case was based on nothing but "speculation and conjecture," at which point the far-right litigants voluntarily agreed to withdraw the suit.

That was not, however, the final word on the subject. Yes, Biden won, thanks in part to his victory in Michigan, and yes, the embarrassingly dumb litigation went away. But what about possible consequences for those who thought it'd be a good idea to waste everyone's time with such a transparently baseless case?

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's (D) administration and the city of Detroit sought penalties against nine attorneys -- a group that includes prominent Trump allies Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood -- arguing in a court filing that the December litigation wasn't just wrong on the merits, it was also filed "for an improper purpose."

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Linda Parker agreed in dramatic fashion, going so far as to conclude that the lawyers' conduct "warrants a referral for investigation and possible suspension or disbarment."

The judge described the pro-Trump case as "a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process," adding:

"Individuals may have a right (within certain bounds) to disseminate allegations of fraud unsupported by law or fact in the public sphere. But attorneys cannot exploit their privilege and access to the judicial process to do the same. And when an attorney has done so, sanctions are in order. ... The attorneys who filed the instant lawsuit abused the well-established rules applicable to the litigation process by proffering claims not backed by law; proffering claims not backed by evidence (but instead, speculation, conjecture and unwarranted suspicion); proffering factual allegations and claims without engaging in the required prefiling inquiry; and dragging out these proceedings even after they acknowledged that it was too late to attain the relief sought."

Parker went on to explain that the pro-Trump lawyers filed their case in the hopes of "undermining the people's faith in our democracy."

She concluded, "[D]espite the haze of confusion, commotion and chaos counsel intentionally attempted to create by filing this lawsuit, one thing is perfectly clear: Plaintiffs' attorneys have scorned their oath, flouted the rules and attempted to undermine the integrity of the judiciary along the way. As such, the court is duty-bound to grant the motions for sanctions."

As Rachel put it on last night's show, "Ouch."

NBC News' report added that Parker also ordered the lawyers "to pay Detroit's court costs and to undergo 12 hours of continuing legal education, including six hours on election law." When a judge concludes that your case was so ridiculous that you clearly require more schooling, it's a bad sign.

But just as important is the broader deterrent effect, which should discourage likeminded attorneys from acting in a similar fashion: You, too, may face sanctions for filing outlandish anti-election litigation, so think twice.