‘Kraken’ lawyer weeps in court hearing as she faces sanctions over backing Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ on election fraud

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Election challengers yell as they look through the windows of the central counting board as police were helping to keep additional challengers from entering due to overcrowding, in Detroit, on November 4, 2020 (AP)
Election challengers yell as they look through the windows of the central counting board as police were helping to keep additional challengers from entering due to overcrowding, in Detroit, on November 4, 2020 (AP)

One of the lawyers who sued to throw out Michigan's electoral votes for President Joe Biden was reduced to tears during a hearing on whether she and her colleagues should face professional sanctions for filing affidavits filled with shoddy claims during post-election litigation.

The so-called "Kraken" lawsuit was filed last year by a group of pro-Trump attorneys, including Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and former Department of Housing and Urban Development adviser Julia Haller. It asked a federal district court to decertify Michigan's presidential electors based on a number of since-discredited theories of alleged election fraud in Detroit's central counting centre. It cited affidavits from poll workers and challengers who made allegations that ballots for Mr Biden were counted multiple times, extra Biden ballots were brought in late at night from vans with out-of-state plates, and repeated numerous baseless claims that voting machines made by Dominion Voting Systems somehow switched votes from former President Donald Trump to Mr Biden.

After Judge Linda Parker rejected the pro-Trump attorneys' claims in December, lawyers representing the City of Detroit, the State of Michigan, and the Democratic National Committee asked her to apply financial sanctions against the GOP attorneys, who she ordered to appear in her virtual Zoom courtroom for a hearing on Monday.

Throughout the hearing's first two and a half hours, the veteran jurist – appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama in 2014 – grilled the lawyers on whether they'd taken any time to investigate claims made in sworn affidavits that they'd submitted along with their complaint.

Many of the affidavits in question had already appeared in a state court lawsuit that sought to halt certification of the election based on the same claims. In a ruling denying a motion to enjoin Michigan's board of canvassers from certifying Mr Biden's win, a Michigan appellate judge said the people who'd submitted affidavits claiming fraud "did not have full understanding" of how Michigan tabulated ballots at Detroit's TCF Center.

When the judge asked if attorneys should face sanctions for filing affidavits they had not vetted and should have known to contain false information, an attorney for the City of Detroit, David Fink, said the Republican lawyers should have known there were problems with the affidavits because a Michigan state judge had already ruled that there were problems with them.

Ms Haller – who resigned from HUD shortly before her name appeared in court documents as part of the president's effort to throw out the election results – then interjected. Her voice broke as she attempted to defend herself by claiming that it was wrong to hold her and her colleagues accountable for what their witnesses had already said under oath in documents when they had not been able to present that evidence in a hearing.

"I would just briefly say that this was a complaint. We had good faith to attach exhibits ... and I simply am confused as to the standard that's being applied when it comes to filing a complaint, because this was not a verified complaint. I'm a little confused at the standard, we did not submit falsehoods and we have not had an opportunity to have our witnesses examined," she said.

Judge Parker replied: "The standard is that I'm applying here ... is that plaintiff's counsel submitted affidavits that the court may believe should have been, obviously questionable, if not false on their face."

"There's a duty that counsel has," she continued "when you're getting a statement in support of your case, actually, as presenting it as evidentiary support of your claims that you have reviewed it, that you have done some minimal due diligence, and that's what I am getting at."

As she concluded her remarks and called for a 20-minute recess, Ms Haller wiped tears from her face.

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