Lawyers charged with Trump say they have been doing their job. But this may be a difficult argument
Washington (AFP) – a John Eastman Willing to surrender to the authorities of Georgia last week in order to An indictment related to the attempted annulment of the 2020 presidential electionHe issued a statement condemning the criminal case as targeting the lawyers “because of their spirited defense on behalf of their clients”.
another accused, Rudy Giuliani, issued a similar note saying he was being charged because of his work as a lawyer for Donald Trump. He lamented, “I never thought I would be charged for being a lawyer.”
Of the 18 defendants charged alongside Trump in the racketeering indictment released this month in Fulton County, more than six are attorneys. Eastman and Giuliani’s statements provide an early harbinger of at least one of the defenses they seem about to raise: that they were only doing their jobs as attorneys when they maneuvered on Trump’s behalf to reverse the results of that election.
The argument points to a desire to turn at least part of the sprawling trial into a referendum on the limits of ethical attorneys in a case that highlights once again how embroiled Trump’s lawyers have become over the years in his own legal troubles.
But while lawyers have ample room to advance untested or unconventional positions, experts say a defense of “lawyers being lawyers” will be difficult to achieve, to the extent that prosecutors can link the accused lawyers directly to the criminal schemes alleged in the indictment. This includes efforts to line up Fake voters in Georgia And other countries falsely assert that Trump is not a Democrat Joe Bidenhave won their competitions.
“The law books are full of examples of lawyers being disciplined for claiming to represent their clients,” said Barry Richard, who represented the lawyers. George W. Bush winning the 2000 presidential campaign in a dispute ultimately decided by the Supreme Court. “Lawyers are required to follow very strict rules regarding physical fitness. And there are certain things you cannot do for your clients.
But the more complex question is how far lawyers can go in developing legal theories — even poorly supported ones — to achieve a client’s desired outcome, said Stephen Saltzburg, a George Washington University law professor and former Justice Department official.
He argued that “bad lawyering” in and of itself is not a crime, nor is it “testing the waters” for reasonable advocacy.
“The real question is, at what point can a lawyer who knows that the legal theory that this lawyer espouses has never been accepted anywhere—when does a lawyer cross the line if the lawyer kind of suggests that it’s OK, that it’s clearly OK?” Saltzburg said. “This is a fuzzy line.”
Of course, attorneys are expected, as Eastman noted in his statement, to represent clients enthusiastically — although he privately admitted, according to court documents, that he expected the Supreme Court to unanimously reject the notion that the then-vice president Mike Pence Can refuse to count electoral votes.
There is also a long history of election-related lawsuits, none more famous than the 2000 Florida battle between Democrat Al Gore and the Bush campaign. Justice Department Counsellor Jack Smith He admitted this in the federal indictment against Trump, saying that he, like any candidate, is entitled to file lawsuits to challenge the ballots and procedures and to challenge the results through other legal means.
But the Georgia indictment lists several acts in which prosecutors allege attorneys bypassed traditional legal advocacy and engaged in criminal activities.
It claims, for example, that the former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark – who denied any wrongdoing – drafted a memorandum he wanted to send to officials in Georgia falsely alleging fraud that could have affected the outcome of the election in that state. Another lawyer accuses, Sydney Powellplanned to gain illegal access to voting equipment in a rural county in Georgia in an effort to prove allegations of voting fraud.
The indictment says that several other attorneys — including Kenneth Chesebro, Giuliani and Eastman — were involved in discussions about recruiting fake voters in states won by Biden rather than in legitimate ones. Chesebro’s lawyer said that every allegation against him related to his work as a lawyer. Powell’s lawyers declined to comment on Tuesday.
“The difference here is between recommending to a client that it may be possible to appoint electors other than those designated by the Secretary of State and then the client either doing so or not doing so,” said Stephen Gellers, a legal expert at the University of New South Wales. York University. “It’s different when the same lawyer sets out to follow that advice.”
He added, “A lawyer as a representative, unlike a lawyer as a defender, has less freedom to transgress legal principles.”
The Georgia case continues a pattern of Trump’s attorney getting involved in his legal troubles. His former attorney Michael Cohen He pleaded guilty in 2018 to arrange payment, at Trump’s direction, to a pornographic actress who said she had an extramarital affair with Trump years earlier.
Recently, some of Trump’s attorneys have testified before a federal grand jury investigating his alleged mishandling of classified documents, with The statements of one of these lawyersM. Evan Corcoran, helps form the backbone of An indictment was filed against Trump in June.
Richard, who represented the Bush campaign in 2000, said there was no fair comparison between the legitimate legal challenges of that era and the alleged misconduct 20 years later. Then the fight was only done in court, and once the Supreme Court ruled, the matter was considered resolved.
When it came to this decision, Richard said, “I remember people saying to me, How is anyone going to rule after this?” And I said, ‘The Monday after this is over, everybody’s going back to work, everybody’s going to admit we have a boss’ – and that’s exactly what happened.”
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This article originally appeared on apnews.com