The first department spanks Rudy Guiliani. Does he care? You bet.
Imagine being a priest for decades, becoming a bishop, and then suddenly being defrocked. You lose your status, your identity, and much of your power. You have to be smart.
Now imagine Rudy Giuliani – the former chief prosecutor of the Southern District of New York, mayor of the nation’s largest city, hero of September 11 – screwing up so well that the state’s highest ethics committee, the Attorney Grievance Committee (AGC), asked the court to immediately suspend him from exercising the right.
This is exactly what happened last week in a per curiam decision by the Appeal Division of the First Department, in which the court said: “The seriousness of [Giuliani’s] an undisputed fault cannot be overstated. For a lawyer, there is nothing worse than this, barring criminal charges.
The court found that Giuliani had committed such gross breaches of professional conduct that his immediate suspension was necessary to avoid “continuing to commit a fault”. Eventually, a full disciplinary hearing will take place during which both parties present additional evidence. Until then, Giuliani can no longer be known as a lawyer, nor be called that in any format, medium or manner. He was defrocked.
The provisional suspension is a serious remedy, the court noted. “Available only in situations where there is an immediate need to protect the public. “
Why does the public need to be protected from the former mayor? Because, as the opinion says, Giuliani has a “big megaphone,” thus amplifying the harm he has caused and is likely to cause further.
The bulk of the charges against him relate to his misrepresentation about the 2020 election. In many different places – TV news, podcasts, social media, rallies and hearings – Giuliani has promoted the lie that the election was fraudulent, stolen to his friend and benefactor, former President Donald Trump.
He approached this theme in so many ways and in so many forums that the court found overwhelming evidence that there was no way for Giuliani does not have know that the statements he made were false at the time he made them. (Giuliani’s putative defense.)
Here are some examples cited by the court:
- The dead voted, including Joe Frazier.
“He still votes here,” Giuliani said on November 7, 2020, of the former heavyweight boxer. Meanwhile, the records submitted by the AGC have shown unequivocally that Pennsylvania officially revoked Frazier’s eligibility to vote on February 8, 2012, three months after his death.
- 6,000 dead voted in Georgia.
After reviewing public records, the Secretary of State concluded that potentially two votes could be expressed on behalf of dead voters.
- Hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens voted in Arizona.
Giuliani drew this conclusion out of nowhere, extrapolating the number of illegal aliens believed to be living in Arizona. As the court said, “Undeterred by the lack of empirical evidence,” Giuliani said in his “Talk to the Mayor” podcast that “with 5 million illegal aliens in Arizona, he is at- beyond the credulity that a few hundred thousand did not “do not vote.
- 2,500 Georgian criminals voted illegally.
Again, simply wrong. Georgia’s secretary of state has identified 74 potential criminal voters.
- The votes were hidden under a table in Georgia.
Giuliani based this claim on excerpts from a full video recording of the vote count in that state. What the full video shows (publicly available) is that boxes were placed under the table at the end of the day and then retrieved when workers were asked to go back and continue counting.
Giuliani admitted that he did not have the “best sources” to justify the numbers he was relying on to make these high-profile electoral fraud allegations. However, he did them the same way. The court ruled that, in part, his allegations inspired the violence against the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
“This country is torn by continued attacks on the legitimacy of the 2020 elections […]. The hallmark of our democracy is based on free and fair elections. False statements intended to promote a loss of confidence in our elections and the resulting loss of confidence in government are generally detrimental to the proper functioning of a free society. When these false statements are made by a lawyer, it also erodes public confidence in the integrity of lawyers admitted to our bar and undermines the profession’s role as a crucial source of reliable information. It tarnishes the reputation of the entire legal profession and its mandate to act as a trusted and essential part of the judiciary. “
Being a lawyer is supposed to mean something. Ethics require us to be honest with our clients, the courts and the public. It’s whether we’re in court, out of court, appearing in the media or at a party. Giuliani’s use of his First Amendment free speech is misplaced, the court said. The advocate’s speech is subject to bigger regulation than the speech of others, he added. “Unlike laymen, a lawyer is a professional trained in the art of persuasion.”
Our words carry more weight and therefore a greater potential for harm. Put this training in the wrong hands – a guy with a giant ego, a global platform, unlimited media access, and a direct connection to a man with an even bigger ego, power base and followers – and he makes sense that Giuliani’s right to practice law should be removed. Permanently.
He gives us all a bad reputation.
Toni Messina has tried over 100 cases and has practiced criminal and immigration law since 1990. You can follow her on Twitter: @tonitamess.