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August 4, 2021
LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson are responding to Wednesday's order from United States Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, which granted sanctions against attorneys who took part in a previously-dismissed and frivolous lawsuit related to the 2020 presidential election that named Michigan officials as defendants.
"This ruling sends a resounding message: attorneys who neglected their oath to support the Constitution by taking part in election lawsuits based neither in fact nor reality not only undermined our legal system - they did irreparable harm to our election processes and will be held accountable," Attorney General Nessel said. "These sanctions affirm that although severe damage was done by these baseless lawsuits, the democratic foundation on which this country was built remains intact and the rule of law still prevails. I appreciate my team's dedication to pursuing these sanctions on behalf of the State and I sincerely hope Michiganders take note of this pivotal ruling."
The Department of Attorney General joined several other defendants, including Dominion, Facebook, Center for Tech and Civic Life and Pennsylvania, in pursuing sanctions against plaintiff attorneys who filed a class-action lawsuit in December 2020 in Colorado. The Court dismissed the entire case for lack of standing in April.
"I am pleased with the court's decision to issue sanctions as it caps off a historic election that was safe, fair, and secure," Governor Whitmer said. "These lawyers acted in bad faith seeking to overturn a fair and valid election. The foundation of our democracy and the principles that we collectively cherish can withstand even the most divisive of times, and today's decision is an important step toward accountability."
The ruling noted in part that "sanctions are merited under Rule 11... and 28 U.S.C. § 1927... [and] further merited under this Court's inherent authority because of the bad faith nature of the filing of the suit that Plaintiffs' counsel knew or should have known was doomed to failure from the very beginning; and (10) That sanctions are required to deter the filing of frivolous, politically motivated lawsuits such as this in the future and to compensate the Defendants for the unnecessary expenditure of private and public money in defense of a frivolous lawsuit filed without reasonable legal basis and without a reasonable inquiry into the facts."
"Actions have consequences. Today's ruling is a clear affirmation that if you intentionally abuse your authority as an attorney to deceive voters about the safety and security of our elections - you will be held accountable," Secretary Benson said. "This is an important victory in the fight to hold bad actors accountable for their attempts to undermine our democracy and use our legal system as a vehicle to spread conspiracy theories for personal and partisan gains."
The sanctioned attorneys are Gary D. Fielder and Ernest J. Walker. They've been ordered to pay defendants' fees related to the suit.
In addition to the Colorado sanctions, Nessel took action to sanction Michigan attorneys Greg Rohl, Scott Hagerstrom and Stefanie Junttila, along with Texas attorney Sidney Powell in King v, Whitmer, et al, another failed election lawsuit. The motion seeks to recover attorneys' fees totaling approximately $11,000 related to election filings that were dismissed in Michigan and is currently pending with the court.
A hearing was held last month before Judge Linda Parker of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Additional briefs will be filed in the case today.
The Department also asked for further disciplinary action to be taken against the attorneys before the Attorney Grievance Commission of the State of Michigan and the State Bar of Texas.
Thus far, Texas' Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel has granted an investigatory hearing related to Powell's bar license, though a date is not yet confirmed. There is no update related to the Michigan licenses at this time.