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Supreme Court upholds sanctions against lawyers for ‘frivolous’ Michigan 2020 election suits

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Supreme Court upholds sanctions against lawyers for ‘frivolous’ Michigan 2020 election suits

Feb 20, 2024 | 8:19 pm ET
By Jon King
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Supreme Court upholds sanctions against lawyers for ‘frivolous’ Michigan 2020 election suits
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Texas attorney Sidney Powell would embark on a public campaign in Georgia and other states of unleashing accusations that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from then-President Donald Trump. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Sanctions levied against Sidney Powell and six other attorneys for spreading false claims while litigating the results of Michigan’s 2020 general election will stand.

That’s after the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, without comment, rejected appeals by the group, all of whom represented former President Donald Trump’s unsuccessful attempts to overturn President Joe Biden’s more than 154,000 vote margin of victory in Michigan in 2020.

The attorneys argued the sanctions would “chill legitimate election challenges,” while also claiming Democrats were trying to “marginalize political opponents and destroy their counsel.”

The sanctions were ordered in August 2021 by U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Judge Linda Parker. In her 110-page opinion granting the sanctions, Parker wrote that the lawsuit “represents a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process” and “should never have been filed.”

“Sanctions are required to deter the filing of future frivolous lawsuits designed primarily to spread the narrative that our election processes are rigged and our democratic institutions cannot be trusted,” the opinion read.

Her ruling was mostly upheld last year by the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court was the last stop for Powell, who is from Texas, along with Lin Wood of Georgia, who filed a separate appeal that was also rejected.

The five other attorneys were Julia Z. Haller and Brandon Johnson of Washington D.C., and three lawyers from Michigan; Scott Hagerstrom, Howard Kleinhendler and Gregory Rohl.

Altogether, Parker levied $175,000 in sanctions against the attorneys for submitting court documents that failed to meet the appropriate legal standard as they were based on “theories, conjecture, and speculation,” although that amount was later lowered to just over $150,000 to cover the legal fees involved in defending against the lawsuits. The City of Detroit will receive the lion’s share of that; $132,810.62, while the State of Michigan will receive $19,639.75.

Parker also ordered the lawyers to undergo 12 hours of continuing legal education.

Powell was also charged in Georgia for conspiring to interfere with the 2020 election in Fulton County. She pleaded guilty last October to six misdemeanor charges, one day before jury selection was scheduled to begin for her trial there.

As part of the plea deal, Powell was sentenced to six years of probation for conspiring to interfere with the performance of election duties for orchestrating a Coffee County elections system breach following the 2020 presidential election.

This story was published earlier by the Michigan Advance, an affiliate of the nonprofit States Newsroom network, which includes the Florida Phoenix.