Two Colorado attorneys are about to feel the full effect of espousing election conspiracy theories in federal court.
U.S. Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter sanctioned Gary Fielder and Ernest Walker for their lawsuit against Dominion Voting Systems, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg and a host of public officials from across the country. The two attorneys will now be personally liable for the fees defendants racked up to have the lawsuit dismissed.
The decision is another victory against attorneys who spread malicious lies in the wake of last November’s presidential election.
Last month, Rudy Giuliani had his law license suspended, and faces potential disbarment, for making “demonstrably false and misleading statements” while spearheading former President Donald Trump’s baseless attempts to overturn the election. The appellate court suspending Giuliani linked his statements to the civil unrest across the county, including the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Neureiter followed suit in his opinion. The judge blasted the complaint for attempting to “sow doubt over the legitimacy of the Biden presidency and the mechanisms of American democracy.” He summarized that the lawsuit was “scatter-shot,” “disorganized and fantastical,” it comprised the “stuff of which violent insurrections are made.”
And that was just the beginning.
Neureiter rightly ripped the two attorneys for a farcical monetary demand ($160 billion), attempting to bring a case against state governments in a wholly separate jurisdiction, a complete failure to analyze threshold matters such as legal standing, copy-and-paste allegations that had been disproved in other courts and an attempt to mislead the court.
In fact, it is hard to find a single page across any of the 68 comprising the opinion without Neureiter raging against Fielder, Walker and the attorneys who so unethically engaged in sham legal challenges across the country.
For example, Neureiter laid waste to the assertion that the personal affidavits attached to the complaint somehow provided a factual basis for the complaint. The judge found that the affidavits where “notable only in demonstrating no firsthand knowledge by a Plaintiff of any election fraud, misconduct, or malfeasance” and were “replete with conclusory statements” and ‘beliefs’ that the election was corrupted, presumably based on rumors, innuendo, and unverified questionable media reports.”
His words channeled the catharsis every reasonable person following the election challenges has needed.
The judge seemed apoplectic that, faced with a “‘veritable tsunami’ of adverse precedent,” the attorneys made arguments that had already been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in prior complaints.
Neureiter caustically asserted that “Plaintiffs’ counsel’s process for formulating the factual allegations in this lawsuit was to compile all the allegations from all the lawsuits and media reports relating to the alleged fraud (and only the ones asserting fraud, not the ones refuting fraud), put it in one massive complaint, and then file it and ‘see what happens.’”
He clearly had no patience for such tactics.
In two stellar passages, the judge pointed out that MyPillow owner Mike Lindell is not a “serious person” and that including inflammatory allegations “merely because the out-going President had said it, was reckless.”
The opinion concluded that “sanctions are required to deter the filing of frivolous, politically motivated lawsuits such as this in the future.” That is precisely what should have happened in every case filed so wantonly over the past year.
Before our U.S. Capitol building came under attack in January, our democracy suffered an insurrection in courts across the country. Simply dismissing the cases did not quell the rising tide of disinformation and culminated in the violence we saw in January.
Instead, it is up to courts to follow the lead set by Judge Neureiter and hold bad-faith actors accountable. Otherwise, they will surely continue to be a “part of an immense feedback loop, echoing and repeating election-rigging conspiracy theories from the internet and from other failed lawsuits.”
That is a threat no court should condone.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq
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