Things heat up in Michigan federal court around Big Lie, with attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood facing sanctions for bringing a series of electoral fraud lawsuits that had no apparent basis in law or in fact.

This is an extremely important development for the rule of law and the integrity of the justice system, as it follows the decision of a New York State Court of Appeals. suspension by Rudy Giuliani to practice law in that state for having lied in the same way to the courts. Recall that the Trump team brought 65 post-election trials around the Big Lie, losing out on 64 evidence faults and other legal flaws – including under the pen of judges appointed by Trump.

Here’s the problem for lawyers willing to lie in court: Courts, unlike politicians, are bound by rules of evidence and procedure. They have no choice but to follow the facts and the law. Otherwise, their decisions will be overturned by a court of appeal. Regarding the 2020 electoral dispute, some judges are finally rushing to punish lawyers – who are also bound by ethical rules as a precondition for maintaining a legal license – for having abused the courts in order to disseminate information. public disinformation for political purposes.

Powell and other lawyers have filed four lawsuits in battlefield states, including Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin and Georgia. All four were quickly rejected up to the Supreme Court of the United States. An Arizona federal court called Powell’s case “sorely lacking in relevant or reliable evidence”; a Wisconsin judge called his requests for fabric relief a “mythical time machine”; and the judge District of the United States, Linda Parker, has dismissed Powell’s case in Michigan for being based on “nothing but speculation and conjecture.” Powell also faces libel lawsuit by Dominion voting systems and another manufacturer for touting the lie that corporate machines fraudulently aided the president Joe bidenJoe Biden Biden calls on Congress to pass voting bills on anniversary of John Lewis’ death Afghan and Taliban officials meet in Qatar amid US troop withdrawal Biden administration investigation of cases of “Havana syndrome” in Austria MORE win the 2020 election. Filed in federal court in Washington, DC, the Dominion lawsuit alleges that “the founder of the Dominion, employees of the Dominion, the Governor of Georgia and the Secretary of State of Georgia were harassed and received death threats ”as a result.

On Monday, Judge Parker held a six-hour hearing to determine whether Powell, Wood and the other lawyers who uttered such nonsense in court should be punished. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen an affidavit that jumps so many times” she noted about a particularly infuriating piece of evidence. “It’s really fantastic. So my question to counsel is, how could any of you, as a court officer, present this affidavit? Shockingly, the attorneys’ attorney reportedly questioned Parker’s objectivity during the hearing, to which the judge replied, “I warn you not to question my procedure. You are here to answer my questions.

As i explained Last year, lawyers practicing in the federal court are bound by Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires lawyers to certify when signing any document filed in court – or any argument based on such a document – that it “is not presented for an improper purpose”, that its claims “are justified by applicable law” and that “factual claims are supported by evidence.” Lawyers (and their clients) may be subject to fines or other penalties for violations, including an order directing them to pay the attorneys’ fees and costs of the other parties Rule 11 and state court equivalents enforced by the American Bar Association Model rules of professional conduct and other ethical standards.

In 1991, the United States Supreme Court issued a lower court decision imposing penalties totaling nearly $ 1 million, noting that such a penalty may be “necessary for the integrity of the courts.” because “altering the administration of justice. . . involves much more than harm caused to a single litigant. It is a wrong against the institutions set up to protect and safeguard the public. This is precisely why the likes of Giuliani, Powell and Wood are in such hot water. The courts know that the corrosive effect of the shenanigans of these lawyers could be long-standing and incalculable. Without quick accountability, the unethical behavior of lawyers sets a precedent that weakens the American legal system as a whole.

Wood and lawyer Emily Newman tried to distance themselves from Powell, saying their respective roles were minimal. Wood claimed he didn’t even know his name was added to the Michigan lawsuit, suggesting he just told Powell “if she needed my help, I would help her from a litigator’s point of view.” . Powell countered that she “had specifically asked Mr. Wood for permission” to add her name, and City of Detroit attorney David Fink called Wood’s claim “obviously wrongGiven his competing statements on social networks. Parker has given the parties two weeks to file additional documents, with lawyers for Powell requesting more witness hearings.

For someone like me who has been teaching civil procedure law students for over 15 years, this story is one hypothesis of examination – not something lawyers and judges often see in real life. Justice Parker said she “had not heard anything” indicating that lawyers had fulfilled their “minimum obligation that any lawyer has in submitting an affidavit under oath.” Unlike voters, who can be fooled by widespread lies from politicians and via social media, courts have a duty to seek substantiated evidence and established law before they act on someone’s request. Rule 11 recognizes that lawyers may be motivated to lie, so it sets up a system designed to deter unethical conduct in the future. Bad things can happen to lawyers who try to act as judges.

As Americans continue to recover from the January 6 insurgency, with a large majority of those interviewed who expect election-related violence in the future, judges are right to be vigilant and not slam the doors of the courthouse to unscrupulous lawyers willing to exploit the justice system at times. cynical purposes. For Powell, Wood and the others who have repeatedly perpetrated fraud regarding a legitimate election in our sacred courts, penalties are likely coming. And the penalty should be severe.

Kimberly Wehle is a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and author of the books “How to Read the Constitution – and Why” and “What You Need to Know About Voting – and Why”. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @kimwehle.