A bar discipline committee in Washington, D.C., has concluded that Rudy Giuliani violated at least one professional rule in his efforts to help former President Donald Trump challenge the results of the 2020 election — a preliminary finding that could result in the suspension or loss of his law license.
The three-member disciplinary committee agreed that Giuliani’s handling of litigation in Pennsylvania crossed ethical lines. Their finding came after a week of testimony by Giuliani — who said Trump waived attorney-client privilege to permit him to testify — and some of his allies, including Trump advisers Bernie Kerik, Christina Bobb and Corey Lewandowski.
“Mr. Giuliani has testified on several occasions that he believes there was a conspiracy,” said D.C. Bar counsel Phil Fox, who investigated and argued the case for Giuliani’s punishment. “There was a conspiracy, and he was the head of it.”
Fox’s case relied on Giuliani’s rushed effort to file lawsuits to throw out hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania votes without any direct evidence of election fraud. Giuliani testified about his hurried drive to Pennsylvania on Nov. 4 in a car with former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to challenge the Pennsylvania election results and to begin spreading discredited claims that the election had been stolen.
Fox said the panel should disbar Giuliani for his conduct.
“I think the harm that was done is unprecedented,” Fox said. “The only sanction that’s appropriate for this kind of misconduct is disbarment.”
Fox and Giuliani will now submit written submissions that the committee will consider before issuing a final finding.
Giuliani contended that his efforts were extraordinarily rushed because of the narrow time frames required in litigating election challenges. He described efforts to obtain affidavits and evidence of election fraud.
After the presentations concluded, Giuliani launched into an extended and furious defense of his conduct, even as his lawyer tried to stop him from speaking.
“It is a typical, unethical, cheap attack,” Giuliani said of Fox’s presentation, reiterating his contention that there’s a legitimate case that the 2020 election was stolen. “I’ll put my work on democracy … up against Mr. Fox and anyone else. For that man to engage in that kind of a personal attack when there was no record of that, and for you to allow him to do that, I consider an outrage.”
“I don’t know what has happened to the defense of lawyers who take on unpopular causes,” Giuliani continued.
Giuliani and his lawyers raised repeated frustrations with their inability to respond to the specific charges against him because the committee didn’t immediately reveal which professional rules it considers him to have violated.
“How can we respond?” wondered John Leventhal, Giuliani’s attorney, after the panel revealed its finding.
The disciplinary committee noted that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit imposes a six-part test for determining whether an attorney should be disbarred, and they noted that an attorney who sued a dry cleaner for $90 million over a lost pair of pants received a 90-day suspension of his law license.
But Fox said that case paled in comparison to Giuliani’s efforts to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters.
“I don’t think that the comparison of an extremely frivolous complaint over a pair of pants against a dry cleaner compares with violating the basic oath we all take to support the constitution and to try to undermine the legitimacy of the election,” Fox said.
Leventhal argued that Giuliani’s long history of service in the Justice Department and as New York City mayor during the 9/11 attacks and aftermath are worth factoring into his discipline.
“Why not treat Mr. Giuliani like any other lawyer,” Leventhal said.