This 2020 Election Lawsuit Resulted in Massive Sanctions Against Lawyers
The highly contentious 2020 election has resulted in a lot of legal drama that is still playing out today. Ultimately, the legal decisions from these cases could have a big impact on future political lawsuits. In a surprising turn of events, one lawsuit from Colorado ended with some very stern words from a federal judge.
Colorado "Conspiracy Theory" Lawsuit Heavily Criticized
Following the 2020 election, some people turned to lawsuits as a means of protest. When Donald Trump lost the election in November of 2020, many of his supporters struggled to come to terms with the news. Despite the lack of proof for any serious election misconduct, some continue to believe that there was foul play.
In Colorado, a group of Trump supporters filed a lawsuit against a few key swing states in the election. The lawsuit named the governors and secretaries of states as defendants and made many unproven claims about election fraud. They sought over $160 billion in damages due to their belief that the defendants had conspired to steal an election. This lawsuit also bundled in charges against Facebook, who was being sued for deleting posts trying to spread false information about the election.
As soon as this lawsuit was announced, it started receiving a lot of criticism in the legal community. Regardless of legal experts' political beliefs, the lawsuit did not meet much of the criteria for a valid suit. There was not much proof, the attorneys' claims lacked grounding in legal precedent, and there were concerns they had misled their clients.
Federal Judge Sanctions the Involved Attorneys
When the case was finally brought before the court, it was dismissed due to a lack of standing. US Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter spent most of the formal dismissal criticizing the attorneys involved in the case. Judge Neureiter announced formal sanctions against the attorneys due to their lack of ethics and legal standing.
First of all, the ruling sanctioned the attorneys for a lack of investigation on the law and the facts. Not only was their case founded on ideas that have been repeatedly disproved, but even if the lawyers claims were true, there was no legal standing for them to sue state governors. Judge Neureiter soundly disapproved of the attorneys' haphazard handling of the lawsuit as well. It bundled together multiple, barely related grievances from other dismissed lawsuits, so it was not founded on the attorneys own investigations or legal arguments.
Furthermore, the attorneys were sanctioned due to potentially dangerous claims they made. They said they represented over 160 million American voters, despite the reality being that they just represented a handful of disgruntled Trump supporters. Their claims also involved stating several conspiracy theories as facts, potentially misleading others. Ultimately, Judge Neureiter concluded that the attorneys recklessly made inflammatory remarks that could endanger others or encourage terorrism.
What It Means for a Judge to Sanction Attorneys
As you can see, Judge Neureiter firmly disapproved of the attorneys' unethical behavior. What does it actually mean for them to be sanctioned though? A sanction is a legal consequence used to penalize someone for not obeying legal regulations. Sanctions can take many forms. An attorney can be completely disbarred or have their ability to practice suspended. They may also have to pay fines or may receive a formal reprimand. Attorneys who have been previously sanctioned may face further consequences if they get in trouble with the court again.
So far, the sanctions for the lawyers in the Colorado case have not been fully announced yet. The court confirmed that they will sanction the attorneys, but they have not decided if a suspension or probation is necessary yet. The ruling did confirm that the attorneys will be fined. They are ordered to pay back the defendants legal fees. This means that the people who had to go to the effort of preparing a defense against the claims will get compensation.
The lawsuit also sets a precedent for further lawsuits surrounding the 2020 election. It shows that attorneys cannot just repeat unhappy clients' conspiracy theories in court. Instead, lawyers who hope to avoid sanctions will need to actually investigate claims and present a more logical case in court. In the long run, these sanctions may be able to stop unethical attorneys from misleading clients or filing spurious lawsuits.