It's no secret that in the wake of Donald Trump's defeat, conspiracy-minded lawyers filed misguided lawsuits, hoping to help the former president. It's also no secret that those cases failed spectacularly.
What's less known is the fact that the demise of those cases was not the final word on the subject. On the contrary, some of the attorneys who wasted everyone's time with baseless litigation are now facing meaningful consequences.
In Michigan, for example, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration and the city of Detroit sought penalties against nine attorneys — a group that includes prominent Trump allies Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood — who filed an absurd anti-election case last December. A few months ago, a federal judge agreed and sanctioned the conspiratorial lawyers.
U.S. District Judge Linda Parker concluded in August, "[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 The Washington Post reported, there's a similar story unfolding in Colorado.
A federal judge has ordered two Colorado lawyers who filed a lawsuit late last year challenging the 2020 election results to pay nearly $187,000 to defray the legal fees of groups they sued, arguing that the hefty penalty was proper to deter others from using frivolous suits to undermine the democratic system.
Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter wrote, "As officers of the Court, these attorneys have a higher duty and calling that requires meaningful investigation before prematurely repeating in court pleadings unverified and uninvestigated defamatory rumors that strike at the heart of our democratic system and were used by others to foment a violent insurrection that threatened our system of government."
He added, "They are experienced lawyers who should have known better. They need to take responsibility for their misconduct."
Circling back to our earlier coverage, it was about a year ago when Gary D. Fielder and Ernest John Walker filed an anti-election lawsuit, alleging a vast conspiracy — involving election officials, Facebook, and Dominion Voting Systems, among others — which they said existed in the shadows to undermine Trump's candidacy. Neureiter concluded that the case was "frivolous," "not warranted by existing law" and filed "in bad faith."
Yesterday, as the Post's report explained, the federal jurist went further, ordering the Colorado lawyers to pay nearly $187,000. Neureiter defended the severity of the penalties by pointing to "the severity of the violation" and because the lawyers had solicited donations from the "arguably innocent and gullible public" to fund their suit.
Looking ahead, the importance of these sanctions is not limited to accountability for those who abused the legal process, it's also about discouraging those who may be tempted to file similarly dumb cases in the future.
There may very well be some who believe there's no harm in filing frivolous anti-election litigation. Even if they expect the cases to fail, lawyers may assume they'll raise some money, get some exposure in conservative media, and take their chances before a judge.
The more attorneys face serious sanctions for such efforts, the fewer cases we're likely to see.