SCOTUS Won’t Review Sanctions Against Pro-Trump Lawyers Who Challenged Biden Win

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected appeals by seven attorneys allied with Donald Trump to revisit monetary and disciplinary sanctions handed down in Michigan after they waged a baseless legal war over the result of the 2020 presidential election.

In a one-line order that did not offer further explanation, the high court let stand the sanctions levied against Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and five other pro-Trump lawyers. The group filed a lawsuit against Michigan state officials in 2020 alleging that Biden’s victory there had been illegitimate. One of several such suits filed around the country at the time, it was part of a legal strategy Powell characterized as an effort to “unleash the Kraken” against Trump’s enemies.

Her complaint, like the others, was eventually dismissed with no evidence of fraud or a wide-ranging international conspiracy to boost Biden into office ever surfacing.

U.S. District Judge Linda Parker dismissed the suit in August 2021, calling it a “historic and profound abuse of the judicial process,” adding that “this case was never about fraud—it was about undermining the people’s faith in our democracy.”

She imposed sanctions totaling around $175,000, writing in her opinion that they were “required to deter the filing of future frivolous lawsuits designed primarily to spread the narrative that our election processes are rigged and our democratic institutions cannot be trusted.”

The sanctions, meant to cover the defendants’ legal fees, were largely upheld by a federal appeals court, though it reduced them to a little over $150,000—around $132,000 to the city of Detroit and $20,000 to the state, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The appeals court noted pointedly at the time that the attorneys had failed to properly investigate their own claims ahead of filing their suit, and had apparently never read the election bylaws they were accusing the state of having violated. “Many of those allegations—particularly the ones concerning Dominion voting machines—were refuted by the plaintiffs’ own exhibits to their complaint,” the panel wrote. “Other allegations arose from facially unreliable expert reports; still others were simply baseless.”

Besides Powell and Wood, the other lawyers who will have to pony up for their participation in the sham suit are Gregory Rohl, Brandon Johnson, Howard Kleinhendler, Julia Haller, and Scott Hagerstrom. All seven were also referred to each of their respective bar associations for possible disciplinary proceedings.

Separately, Powell pleaded guilty last October to charges related to her efforts to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia. Submitting her plea a day before jury selection in her trial had been set to begin, Powell agreed to serve six years of probation, pay a $6,000 fine, and $2,700 in restitution to the state of Georgia, write an apology letter to its citizens, and testify in any related court proceedings.

Her apology letter, obtained in December through an open records request by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was just one sentence long. “I apologize for my actions in connection with the events in Coffee County,” Powell wrote.

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