A federal judge on July 12 heard arguments for and against sanctioning lawyers in an election case, including Sidney Powell and Lin Wood.
U.S. District Judge Linda Parker, an Obama nominee, was asked to sanction lawyers in King et al. v. Whitmer et al., with defendants charging that plaintiffs’ attorneys failed to dismiss their case when it became moot and that counsel should have known that the claims were frivolous but pursued them nonetheless.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, both Democrats, are the defendants in the case, in which plaintiffs alleged “massive election fraud” and “multiple violations” of state and federal law in the 2020 election.
In a contentious six-hour hearing, the judge and lawyers continually cut each other off and protested loudly about whether the attorneys should be sanctioned.
Parker read portions from affidavits filed in the case by experts such as Russell Ramsland Jr., whose firm examined voting machines in Antrim County, Michigan, where election officials falsely reported that Democrat Joe Biden received thousands of votes more than Republican Donald Trump before twice correcting the skewed results. Parker repeatedly expressed concern that lawyers didn’t meet their duty to conduct “minimal vetting” of expert affidavits.
“There is a responsibility, there is a duty that counsel has to make sure that when you’re submitting an affidavit, a sworn statement … that you have reviewed it, that you have done some minimal due diligence,” she said.
The attorneys, as well as their representative, Donald Campbell, said they reviewed many of the filings before they were filed, speaking with most of the experts, and asked the judge multiple times to hold an evidentiary hearing at which the experts could answer questions.
Parker rejected those requests and said she was focused on examining actions by counsel. She wondered why lawyers waited until after the presidential count was certified to bring the case, which sought decertification of the results and an order to impound all voting machines and software in the state for expert inspection.
Lawyers said they had to wait until certain actions unfolded, including certification, to file the case. It was filed two days after the Nov. 23, 2020, certification.
Howard Kleinhendler, one of the lawyers, said he’d spoken to Ramsland multiple times before the affidavit was submitted and asked the expert whether he was sure the filing was correct before it was lodged.
David Fink, representing the city of Detroit, an intervening defendant, called for sanctions and hoped the attorneys would be barred from practicing in the Eastern District of Michigan.
“These lawyers should be punished for their behavior,” he said.
Powell spoke last, asserting that the hearing itself was unusual and reflective of how election integrity cases have gone in the wake of the 2020 contest.
“The very fact that we attached 960 pages of affidavits reflect how seriously we took this matter,” she said. “This is one of the proceedings that leaves the American public with no confidence in the judicial system.”
Wood said he didn’t expressly give permission to place his name on the suit and that he wasn’t aware of the case until after it was filed, though he had told Powell he was available to be counsel on cases if he was needed. Powell said that the filings were the responsibility of her and Kleinhendler. She and other lawyers said they stood by the affidavits and the suit, which was dismissed.
Parker said she would make her decision on another day, asking some of the lawyers to file briefs further outlining their arguments.
Parker dismissed the suit in December 2020. An appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn the ruling.