Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Former Trump attorney Sidney Powell has problems

Sidney Powell is fending off dueling legal fights over her false claims the 2020 election was rigged against President Donald Trump, a balancing act that legal ethics say could put her in a bind, reported The National Law Journal.

In the Eastern District of Michigan, Powell is facing motions for sanctions over a lawsuit she filed seeking to overturn the election results. Separately, Powell is fighting a federal defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems in Washington, D.C., over statements she made alleging the voting company played a role in causing Trump’s election loss.

On Monday, Powell’s legal team claimed her comments about Dominion are protected because it was political speech and made in furtherance of her “Kraken” lawsuits challenging the election results. All of those lawsuits were thrown out of federal court. 

“Analyzed under these factors, and even assuming, arguendo, that each of the statements alleged in the complaint could be proved true or false, no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact,” Powell’s attorneys wrote in the motion to dismiss. 

While her attorneys argue the comments were simply legal theories and political commentary, some legal ethics experts say it looks like Powell is trying to have it both ways.

“Ethics rules permit a lawyer to take inconsistent legal positions in different courts at different times on behalf of different clients. But that’s not what we have here,” Renee Knake Jefferson, a law professor with the University of Houston, said in an email. 

“Powell’s defense in the defamation lawsuit undermines her defense in the disciplinary proceeding,” Jefferson said.

Stephen Gillers, a law professor with New York University who studies legal ethics, concurred. “Powell is in a bind,” he said in an email. “If she claims that her statements, though false, could not reasonably be believed and therefore not defamatory, she will risk discipline if she said the same things to a court. There is no ‘political hyperbole’ defense to lying to the court.”

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