Judge rules that Sidney Powell and Lin Wood engaged in 'historic and profound abuse' of legal system, approves punishment

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sidney powell trump giuliani election
Sidney Powell, an attorney later disavowed by the Trump campaign, participates in a news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani at the Republican National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. November 19, 2020 Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
  • Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood failed to present evidence to support their claims of fraud, a judge ruled.

  • Their post-election litigation constituted an abuse of the legal system, the court declared.

  • The attorneys will have to attend at least 12 hours of legal education.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A US judge has ruled that the pro-Trump attorneys who sued Michigan officials over false claims they broke state election law and manipulated the vote will have to pay the defendants' legal fees and face sanctions over unethical behavior.

The decision stems from a lawsuit filed by the Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood, among others, following former President Donald Trump's defeat in the 2020 election. President Joe Biden won Michigan by more than 155,000 votes in what state and national officials described as an election that was "the most secure in American history."

In a scathing ruling issued on Thursday, US District Judge Linda V. Parker said Powell and Wood had engaged in a "historic and profound abuse of the judicial process." Their claims - made against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the City of Detroit, and state election officials - were not just flimsy and unfounded, alleging a massive and implausible conspiracy to steal the election, Parker said, but actively harmful.

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This case "was never about fraud - it was about undermining the People's faith in our democracy and debasing the judicial process to do so," the judge wrote.

Read more: We identified the 125 people and institutions most responsible for Donald Trump's rise to power and his norm-busting behavior that tested the boundaries of the US government

Thursday's order grants the defendants' motion for unspecified sanctions, instructs the attorneys to pay any fees incurred by their litigation, and instructs the lawyers to complete at least 12 hours of legal education within the next six months on election law and pleading standards. The order also refers to them for potentially further disciplinary action, including disbarment.

Parker provided numerous instances of what she termed legal abuse. In one example, the lawyers claimed to have evidence that votes were changed by election workers. Asked for evidence, they presented an affidavit from a woman who said only that "I believe some of these workers were changing votes." Asked if that woman had actually seen that, "The Court was met with silence."

In another instance, the judge noted that the lawyers claimed ballots were run through tabulation machine more than once - and that there is no legal reason to do so. "But bafflingly, Plaintiff's counsel did not offer a cite to the law violated," the judge wrote. In fact, however, there are a "myriad of reasons" why ballots might be run through a machine several times, such as if the reader is jammed.

The same inability to present evidence presented itself when the lawyers were asked to support the claim that had been an irregular "dump" of votes for Biden. They could not, the court noted, "And speculation, coincidence, and innuendo could never amount to evidence of an 'illegal vote dump' - much less, anything else."

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