A New York court suspended Rudy Giuliani’s state law license Thursday after concluding that he made “demonstrably false and misleading statements” in his effort to reverse the results of the 2020 election in favor of former President Donald Trump.
Mr. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, represented Mr. Trump as his personal attorney beginning in 2018 with the Russia investigation. After the 2020 election, Mr. Giuliani led a legal team that laid out sprawling and unsupported allegations of a conspiracy between Democratic officials and foreign governments to steal the presidential election for
“These false statements were made to improperly bolster [Giuliani’s] narrative that due to widespread voter fraud, victory in the 2020 United States presidential election was stolen from his client,” the New York appellate division wrote in an order based on the findings of a continuing investigation by its attorney-grievance committee.
It is unusual for the appellate division to suspend a lawyer’s license before the grievance committee completes its investigation, ethics lawyers said. The 33-page order said the court acted now because Mr. Giuliani’s conduct threatened the public interest, citing Mr. Giuliani’s “past, persistent and pervasive dissemination of these false statements in the media.”
“This is not a situation where the uncontroverted misconduct consisted of only a few isolated incidents,” the court wrote.
Mr. Giuliani can fight the decision in upcoming disciplinary proceedings, which could take several months or years and may eventually lead to his disbarment, a term of suspension or other penalties. His lawyers—John Leventhal and Barry Kamins of Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins—called Thursday’s decision “unprecedented.”
“Our client does not pose a present danger to the public interest. We believe that once the issues are fully explored at a hearing Mr. Giuliani will be reinstated as a valued member of the legal profession that he has served so well in his many capacities for so many years,” they said in a statement.
The order applies to Mr. Giuliani’s law license in New York state, where he has practiced since he was admitted to the bar in 1969. He also has a license to practice law in Washington, D.C. where he remains in good standing. The Washington bar often reciprocates official disciplinary action in other states, though the New York action is only in force while the committee conducts its investigation.
Mr. Trump called the grievance-committee investigation a “witch hunt.”
“Can you believe that New York wants to strip Rudy Giuliani, a great American Patriot, of his law license because he has been fighting what has already been proven to be a Fraudulent Election? Mr. Trump said in a statement.
Bruce Green, a professor of legal ethics at Fordham Law School, said interim suspensions like Mr. Giuliani’s are leveled only for the most serious situations when it is necessary to immediately protect the public, such as when a lawyer has mishandled money or has been indicted or convicted of a felony.
“It’s not a sympathetic opinion,” Prof. Green said of Thursday’s court order.
The suspension of Mr. Giuliani’s law license comes as courts across the country are weighing whether some of the failed legal challenges to the 2020 presidential election were frivolous or improper and warrant punishment for the lawyers who filed them.
Mr. Giuliani has long been an important figure in the New York legal world, working as the Manhattan U.S. attorney before being elected mayor. He has been a partner at large law firms, including Bracewell LLP and Greenberg Traurig LLP.
Mr. Giuliani’s work as Mr. Trump’s personal attorney became a focal point in the former president’s impeachment by the House and acquittal by the Senate, after it emerged that he helped orchestrate the ouster of the U.S. ambassador and tried to get local officials to release damaging information about Mr. Biden and his son Hunter. The Bidens denied wrongdoing.
In April, federal agents searched his New York apartment as part of a continuing investigation by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation into his business dealings in Ukraine and possible violations of federal lobbying laws.
An attorney for Mr. Giuliani called the search warrant “legal thuggery” and said that Mr. Giuliani had already agreed to answer investigators’ questions.
In ordering Mr. Giuliani’s license suspended, the New York appellate division’s order cited statements Mr. Giuliani made in court, at news conferences and state legislative hearings and during television, podcast and radio appearances to cast doubt on Mr. Biden’s victory over Mr. Trump.
For instance, the New York court said, Mr. Giuliani repeatedly told a federal judge in Pennsylvania that Mr. Trump was pursuing a voter-fraud claim, when the lawsuit was about whether Republican and Democratic voters were treated the same, among other matters.
“[Giuliani’s] mischaracterization of the case was not simply a passing mistake or inadvertent reference. Fraud was the crown of his personal argument before the court,” the order said.
Mr. Giuliani, in statements published with the order, denied misleading the court because he admitted that there was no fraud claim after a judge pressed him.
Thursday’s order also referred to several statements about election results in Georgia, where Mr. Biden narrowly defeated Mr. Trump.
Mr. Giuliani claimed that voting machines manipulated the tallied votes, even after the state completed a hand-counted audit of all ballots cast, which confirmed the results of the election. The court wrote that Mr. Giuliani’s statement that “the vote count was inaccurate, without referencing the hand audits, was misleading.”
Mr. Giuliani said in statements published with the order that he “reasonably relied on ‘expert’ affidavits,” none of which were provided to the court.
Write to Deanna Paul at [email protected]
Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8