“There is no question that he has shamed our profession by his recent conduct,” write co-authors Chris McDonough and Joel R. Brandes in the last line of their scathing article about New York attorney Rudy Giuliani’s participation in frivolous lawsuits and his conduct surrounding the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
According to the authors, Giuliani’s now infamous words, “let’s have trial by combat,” as well as the multitude of baseless lawsuits he filed in an attempt to undermine the 2020 presidential election are grounds for punishment under the New York State Bar Association’s Rules of Professional Conduct.
While representing the Trump campaign, Giuliani made claims of voter fraud and illegitimate votes against several counties in Pennsylvania, as well as places like Detroit and Milwaukee. Giuliani brought multiple court actions in multiple states without “any evidentiary basis whatsoever,” and his claims were quickly dismissed. More than 60 courts concluded that Giuliani’s allegations had “no basis in law or fact,” but he continued to file them, repeatedly seeking to vacate the results of the presidential election.
The Chair of New York Senate’s Judiciary Committee has lodged a complaint against Giuliani with the court’s Attorney Grievance Committee, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) has launched a historic inquiry into removing Giuliani from its membership, and authors McDonough and Brandes pose the question:
Should Mr. Giuliani be disciplined for his conduct and participation in frivolous lawsuits?
Several rulebooks, codes of professional conduct, and legal precedents suggest the answer is yes. Giuliani’s conduct adversely reflects on his fitness as a lawyer and involves dishonesty and misrepresentation. Lawyers cannot knowingly bring about baseless lawsuits, nor can they abuse legal procedure without consequence. The NYSBA Professional Ethics committee does not allow lawyers to violate Rules of Professional Conduct, even on behalf of their clients, even when the client in question is the President of the United States.
Additionally, Giuliani’s speech at the rally outside the Capitol is also subject to discipline because it reflects poorly on him as a lawyer and can be interpreted as “prejudicial to the administration of justice.” Although this appearance is separate from Giuliani’s law practice, several legal precedents – including the Matter of Percy, 36 N.Y. 651 and the Matter of Langslow, 167 N.Y. 314 – confirm his conduct can warrant discipline. Even President Richard Nixon was disbarred after his conduct as the holder of the highest public office of the country reflected adversely on the legal profession.
Given this information, the complaints outlined above, and a joint statement from several top law schools claiming Giuliani and others “betrayed the values of our profession,” Chris McDonough and Joel R. Brandes call for scrutiny of Giuliani. Nevertheless, they remind readers that Giuliani should be notified of the charges against him and have an opportunity to be heard.
With a heavy heart, the authors acknowledge the shame Giuliani brought to the legal profession:
“There is no question that he has shamed our profession by his recent conduct.”
To read McDonough and Brandes’ full article in the New York Law Journal, please visit law.com.
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