A national group of lawyers filed an ethics complaint against Rudy Giuliani on Thursday, calling on the state of New York to suspend his law license following the efforts to undermine the 2020 election and spread lies from Donald Trump about widespread voter fraud causing his presidential reelection loss.
Lawyers Defending American Democracy, a nonpartisan group that includes former judges, attorneys general and federal prosecutors, filed a formal complaint alleging Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, knowingly lied about the results of the election that was won by Democrat Joe Biden by more than 7 million votes. Trump and his allies have been sharply criticized for spreading the voter fraud lies, which fanned the flames of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month.
“Lawyers have a legal responsibility to enforce the rule of law,” Scott Harshbarger, the chairman of the LDAD and a former Massachusetts attorney general, said in a statement. “There must be accountability for misconduct which is so obvious and consequential. He claimed Mr. Trump was a victim when he was the one trying to disenfranchise tens of millions of American voters.”
The New York Times added that more than a thousand people had signed the complaint, one of the most serious efforts to censure Giuliani so far. The group has called for an investigation into the attorney’s conduct but said he should have his license suspended while it goes forward, warning of further division if he’s allowed to hold his stature.
“Even as this complaint is being submitted, violence fed by Mr. Giuliani’s attack on democracy is eroding the rule of law,” the letter reads. “The Committee should not permit Mr. Giuliani to continue to use his professional stature and his bar license to tear apart the social fabric of this country, and threaten public safety, while it investigates. The violations are too clear, and there is too much [at] stake.”
Giuliani, a former mayor of New York City, said Thursday on his radio show that the efforts were an attempt to deny his right to free speech, calling his critics “idiots” and “political hacks,” the Times added.
“The whole purpose of this is to disbar me from my exercising my right of free speech and defending my client, because they can’t fathom the fact that maybe, just maybe, they may be wrong,” he said.
The letter comes about a week after the chairman of the New York State Senate judiciary committee, Brad Hoylman (D), called for Giuliani to be stripped of his license. Hoylman said the attack on the U.S. Capitol was “the foreseeable culmination of increasingly outrageous lies and disinformation being peddled” by the attorney.
“The codes of ethics we as attorneys swear to uphold are intended to safeguard both the public and the reputation of the profession itself,” Hoylman wrote in a formal request earlier this month. “A failure to hold a member of our ranks accountable for seditious acts and exhortations of violence is a failure to provide that safeguard.”
The New York State Bar Association has also launched an inquiry into Giuliani’s membership in that body after receiving hundreds of complaints about his work. The step would be highly unusual, and the Times reports the group has not removed someone who hasn’t yet been disbarred in more than a century.
Giuliani was one of Trump’s most vocal surrogates and defenders during the failed effort to overturn the election. His legal team lost dozens of court cases in an attempt to throw out ballots — and disenfranchise voters of color — but Giuliani spent weeks spreading lies about rampant election fraud. He drew fierce criticism after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, vandalizing the halls of Congress and leaving five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer.
In a speech before the insurrection, Giuliani told Trump supporters to consider “trial by combat.” (He later said he was just making a reference to a “very famous documentary” called “Game of Thrones.”)