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Complaint Against Giuliani Cites Duty to Report Ethical Breach

Jan. 21, 2021, 9:24 PM

A lawyers’ group wants New York’s attorney disciplinary body to investigate Rudy Giuliani for alleged ethical breaches over his work for former President Donald Trump and to suspend his license to practice during any inquiry.

“This complaint is about law, not politics,” said the filing with the Attorney Grievance Committee of the New York Supreme Court by Lawyers Defending American Democracy. The group bills itself as non-partisan and includes former judges, academics, prosecutors, firm and other attorneys, and public officials.

“Lawyers have every right to represent their clients zealously and to engage in political speech,” the complaint said on Wednesday. But when they “abuse the judicial process, lie to third parties in the course of representing clients,” or act dishonestly, they violate ethics rules.

This is the latest complaint, petition, or letter seeking to investigate, sanction, or disbar the former New York mayor and federal prosecutor over his leading role in efforts to overturn the presidential election results, and now his remarks at a Trump rally that preceded the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

The New York State Bar Association announced Jan. 11 that it would look into removing Giuliani from the bar over his “trial by combat” remark that some say helped to incite the mob that overran the Capitol while Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers were certifying the Nov. 3 balloting for Democrat Joe Biden. Five people died in the mayhem. But membership with the group is voluntary and it has no involvement in lawyer discipline.

Legal experts have for the most part dismissed these petitions against Giuliani and other lawyers for Trump involved in the election pushback because they are political in nature or because there needs to be a formal complaint filed with a disciplinary body to initiate an investigation.

But the latest complaint is unique in that the signers claim they have an ethical duty under Rule 8.3 to report Giuliani’s professional misconduct.

The rule says lawyers have to report a known violation of ethics rules that “raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”

The complaint wants New York State to suspend Giuliani during any investigation because he continues to undermine the rule of law. Giuliani received his law license in New York.

“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,” it said.

“The violations are too clear, and there is too much is at stake.”

Neither Giuliani’s office nor the disciplinary committee responded to requests for comment.

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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