Lawyers nationwide are demanding that their colleagues stop representing President Trump since he is falsely claiming widespread voter fraud and such unfounded allegations are in violation of his duties under the US Constitution.
The Nov. 10 open letter is signed by more than 1,100 lawyers, many of them in with Massachusetts ties, including retired Supreme Judicial Court Justice Fernande RV Duffly, former federal judge Nancy Gertner, and Pamela Bergman, president of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus.
"There has never been a more important time for America’s lawyers to acknowledge the importance of these solemn commitments, and to demand accountability for those lawyers and federal officials who do not live up to their oaths and ethical obligations,'' the open letter demands.
The legal profession has ethical rules that bar attorneys from filing lawsuits when they know the claim being made is false or untrue, according to Lawyers Defending American Democracy, the group leading the campaign.
"We join in this letter to demand that public office holders and lawyers uphold their oath to defend the Constitution,'' the letter states. “To do that, they must cease making false or unfounded claims and implementing actions – including those actions taken by Attorney General William Barr on November 9 – that undermine our presidential election process.”
Barr on Monday told federal prosecutors they could “pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities prior to the certification of elections,” signaling a break with longtime Department of Justice policies. In response, the director of the DOJ’s Election Crimes Branch resigned that day.
Election officials around the country say they’ve seen no evidence to support Trump’s allegations of widespread election fraud, and judges in several states have already dismissed lawsuits filed on behalf of the Trump campaign in regard to the race.
Filing lawsuits in courthouses across the country in support of Trump’s false claims violates lawyers’ ethical duty, the group wrote in the open letter that is also backed by retired Massachusetts Appeals Court James F. McHugh and former state senator Lois G. Pines.
“Since there is no factual basis – no evidence – to support President Trump’s claim of widespread fraud, his actions grossly interfere with the right to vote and cannot withstand any scrutiny,'' the letter states. “Lawyers who represent the President, or his campaign, in challenges to this election – like all lawyers who appear in court – have an ethical obligation of candor to the court.”
The group of lawyers, judges, prosecutors and partners of major law firms stressed that it is not affiliated with either major political party. Former Massachusetts Attorney General L. Scott Harshbarger is the group’s chairman.
"This unprecedented moment transcends partisanship’' the group wrote. “The country and the world are watching to see how America responds to the President’s shameful attack on the legitimacy of America’s voting process.”
On Thursday, one high-profile law firm withdrew from a campaign-related lawsuit it had filed in Pennsylvania.
John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.