A federal judge considering whether to order sanctions against some of former President Donald Trump’s lawyers spent hours Monday drilling deeply into details about an unsuccessful lawsuit that challenged Michigan’s 2020 election results.
The lawsuit alleging widespread fraud was dropped after the judge found nothing but “speculation and conjecture” that votes for Trump somehow were destroyed or switched to votes for Joe Biden, who won Michigan by 2.8 percentage points.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the city of Detroit now want a raft of attorneys, including Trump allies Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood, to face the consequences. It’s one of the few efforts to wrench fines or other penalties from dubious post-election lawsuits across the U.S.
At its peak, Monday’s court hearing attracted more than 13,000 people watching the live video.
U.S. District Judge Linda Parker repeatedly asked what lawyers did to assure themselves that allegations from Trump voters about fraud appeared legitimate. No one raised a hand in many instances. At other times, they said affidavits from people in counting centers simply were intended to reinforce reports by their election experts.
“If you have not asked the minimal questions, I find that problematic,” Parker said of the affidavits. “I’m trying to determine the level of inquiry.”
David Fink, an attorney for Detroit, a Democratic city where Trump’s allies had alleged election irregularities, said there was no “due diligence” by lawyers.
“They had a duty to investigate,” Fink said. “Unfortunately this kind of case is going to make people around the world believe that lawyers can say or do whatever they want and it doesn’t have to be true, they don’t have to inquire.”
There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Indeed, election officials from both political parties have stated publicly that the election went well, and international observers confirmed there were no serious irregularities.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six Republican voters who wanted Parker to decertify Michigan’s results and impound voting machines. The judge declined in December, calling the request “stunning in its scope and breathtaking in its reach.”