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Lawyers Must Pay Costs of ‘Fantastical’ Voting-Fraud Suit (2)

Aug. 4, 2021, 6:47 PM; Updated: Aug. 4, 2021, 11:41 PM

A federal judge in Colorado has sanctioned two lawyers who filed a “cut and paste” complaint alleging massive fraud in the November presidential election.

Magistrate Judge Reid Neureiter chastised Michigan attorney Ernest Walker and Colorado lawyer Gary Fielder for filing the proposed class action with little to back up their claims against entities that included Dominion Voting Systems and Facebook Inc.

“Albeit disorganized and fantastical, the Complaint’s allegations are extraordinarily serious and, if accepted as true by large numbers of people, are the stuff of which violent insurrections are made,” Neureiter, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, said Tuesday.

The lawsuit, which Neureiter noted was the brainchild of the attorneys and sought $160 billion in damages, was among the dozens of failed challenges to the 2020 election.

It alleged a “vast conspiracy” to change voter laws without legislative approval, alter votes, and count illegal votes, but with no proof, Neureiter said.

Neureiter dismissed the suit in April because the allegations were too general and plaintiffs didn’t have enough of a personal stake in the outcome. The plaintiffs had also dismissed claims in the case against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other officials.

A number of attorneys are caught up in the broader fallout over ill-fated election fraud claims, which former President Donald Trump continues to tout. These include former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who’s been suspended by the New York and Washington, D.C., bars over his role in the saga. Attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood also face possible sanctions after a federal judge in Michigan questioned whether they acted in bad faith when filing documents with the court to try and undermine the election.

Denver-based Dominion sued Giuliani, Powell and others over claims without evidence that it stole millions of votes from Trump.

This week’s ruling in Colorado is the among the first to sanction lesser known figures.

“Given the volatile political atmosphere,” the attorneys had a “heightened” duty to make sure their claims were valid, which they failed to do, Neureiter said.

Walker and Fielder were ordered to pay the defendants’ attorneys fees for having to prepare and argue the motion to dismiss and a motion for leave to amend the complaint, which he said was filed in bad faith.

Walker couldn’t be reached for comment. Fielder disputed the bad faith allegations in an email to Bloomberg Law. He also noted that the case dismissal has been appealed and that the sanctions would be, too.

“From the beginning, our clients sought a peaceful and legal method to address the mountain of truthful and factual allegations outlined in our complaint,” he said. “The case has nothing to do with Donald Trump, and is concerned only with the integrity of our Presidential elections--which affects every registered voter in America.”

The case is O’Rourke v. Dominion Voting Systems, Inc., D. Colo., No. 1:20-cv-03747, 8/3/21

(Adds attorney comment last two paragraphs.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan in Washington at mstanzione@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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