Panel: Giuliani likely committed misconduct

Zoe Tillman Bloomberg News

Attorney disciplinary regulators on Thursday recommended Rudy Giuliani to be disbarred after a Washington, DC, Bar committee announced a preliminary finding that he likely violated at least one attorney practice rule in pressing Donald Trump’s failed legal challenge to President Joe Biden’s 2020 win in Pennsylvania.

The decision from the hearing committee is not final and could change as his case continues to wind through the bar association’s disciplinary process. But it’s a major initial setback for the former New York City major in his defense against a legal ethics complaint that carries potential discipline ranging from a warning to the loss of his license.

The hearing committee chair Robert Bernius announced that the panel made a preliminary finding that the local disciplinary counsel’s office proved at least one of the alleged violations. They did not specify the violation.

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Giuliani was a chief architect of Trump’s legal strategy to contest his losses in key states in the 2020 presidential election. He personally entered the fray in Pennsylvania, working with local attorneys to press a lawsuit in federal court arguing the state’s election processes were unconstitutional. A district court judge and, later, a federal appeals panel tossed the case out.

The DC Bar’s disciplinary counsel’s office accused Giuliani of violating attorney practice rules in his handling of the litigation, which involved asking the Pennsylvania judge to invalidate large quantities of ballots cast across the state, or, alternatively, to order a new election. Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton “Phil” Fox argued at a hearing last week that Giuliani “weaponized his law license” to try to undermine the US Constitution.

The three-person hearing committee shared its findings after hearing several days of testimony and arguments.

Giuliani briefly presented character evidence that he thought weighed against sanctions, including his work on behalf of first responders following the 9/11 terrorist attack. The disciplinary counsel then presented its case for disbarment, while Giuliani’s lawyer argued for the least serious sanction possible.

The hearing committee will submit a final report with its recommendations to the DC Bar’s Board on Professional Responsibility, which will decide whether to accept it. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals is the final arbitrator.

Giuliani’s lawyers made a late push to defend against the allegations on Thursday, putting their client back on the record to discuss efforts he says he made to personally conduct interviews with people who are claimed to have evidence of wrongdoing in voting processes in Pennsylvania. He insisted they did vet the information coming through and disregarded certain tips, saying that it would be “unfair” to think they took everything that came in.

A state court in New York previously suspended Giuliani’s license there after finding he put the public at risk by spreading lies about the 2020 election. His license in Washington is also suspended while he fights the ethics complaint.

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