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Trump Lawyer Targeting Push Opens New Front With Bar Rules (1)

Oct. 12, 2022, 6:41 PMUpdated: Oct. 12, 2022, 8:04 PM

A lawyer group that brought ethics complaints against Trump attorneys is trying to make it tougher for lawyers to use the legal system to overturn elections.

The group, called the 65 Project, aims to change bar rules of professional conduct in 50 states and the District of Columbia to eliminate “fraudulent and malicious lawsuits” against fair election results.

“Lawyers purport to be self-regulatory and special stewards of the rule of law,” Paul Rosenzweig, a group advisory board member, told reporters Wednesday. “They failed in that responsibility” with the 2020 election.

The effort is a new front in the group’s self-described battle to protect democracy from abuse of the legal system. 65 Project has already filed 55 state bar ethics complaints against lawyers for former President Donald Trump over their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The group’s targets have included former Foley & Lardner partner Cleta Mitchell, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and lawyers Joseph diGenova and Boris Epshteyn.

Part of 65 Project’s new effort includes proposing rules to prevent attorneys in public office from violating attorney standards by amplifying false statements about elections.

The group is focusing initially on about a dozen states, including Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas, and Pennsylvania, and DC, said Michael Teter, a former Utah assistant attorney general who is Project 65’s managing director.

Changing ethics rules at the American Bar Association, which puts forth model rules of professional conduct, and at the state level can be convoluted, Teter said, though the group aims to have new ethics rules in place for the 2024 election.

Tom Fitton, president of the conservative group Judicial Watch, called the Project 65 effort a “political attack on those who are on the wrong side of litigation in a political dispute.” George Washington University Law School Professor Jonathan Turley said the effort could “place the bar on a slippery slope where lawyers addressing novel or new legal theories can be stripped of their licenses.”

The 65 Project has sought to disbar Trump lawyer John Eastman and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in the matter. It has also targeted former and current state attorneys general in Missouri, Kansas, Alabama and Utah with complaints.

Each of the group’s complaints is active, Teter said.

(Adds outside comments in ninth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Sam Skolnik in Washington at sskolnik@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com