One of the first things drummed into a budding attorney’s head is that s/he is an “officer of the court.” What that means, among other things, is that the attorney has an obligation to promote justice, including an absolute ethical duty to tell judges the truth. As an officer of the court, a lawyer’s duty is to serve the interests of justice, not just those of the client. In the 60-plus Trump attempts to deny the will of the people, truth was not high on these attorneys’ lists.
In addition, Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, mandates that an attorney represents to the court that the action s/he is bringing is not frivolous and is supported by evidence. These standards were knowingly and serially abused by Trump’s lawyers. The federal courts may impose “an appropriate sanction” on Rule 11 violators. Here’s hoping that they will and that it will be harsh.
Most states have similar rules in place for ridiculous lawsuits filed in their courts.
Finally, there are the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which have been adopted or adapted by all fifty states and the District of Columbia. A number of the Model Rules apply to the Trump legal team’s attempt to subvert the electoral decision and make a mockery of the judicial process:
Rule 3.1: Meritorious Claims & Contentions. A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous,….
Rule 3.3: Candor Toward the Tribunal. (a) A lawyer shall not knowingly: (1) make a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal or fail to correct a false statement of material fact or law previously made to the tribunal by the lawyer; or…(3) offer evidence that the lawyer knows to be false.
Rule 4.1: Truthfulness in Statements to Others (such as the media and public). In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly: (a) make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person;
Rule 8.4: Misconduct: Maintaining The Integrity Of The Profession. It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: (a) violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct,…(c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; (d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice;
Either Rudy et al. never read the Model Rules or thought they could get away with ignoring them. They cannot, nor should they. At this writing, complaints have been filed with at least five state bar disciplinary agencies – in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, New York and Pennsylvania – accusing as many as 23 different Trump attorneys of either filing “frivolous” lawsuits or engaging in other professional misconduct. Discipline can range up to disbarment, which any Trump attorney who participated in this contemptible attempt at a coup d’etat richly deserves.
The vast majority of lawyers are principled individuals who take their responsibilities to society seriously. Unfortunately, a few bad apples like the Trump legal team give the profession a black eye. The way to redemption is to excise them permanently from the ranks of practitioners.
January 1, 2021