Lawyer defends DC judge who opened ethics inquiry after election trial
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- Amicus lawyer for Vinson & Elkins says challenge to initiate disciplinary investigation is premature
- The trial court judge said the lawsuit against Pence “filled with baseless fraud allegations”
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(Reuters) – A federal appeals court in Washington, DC was asked on Tuesday to uphold a judge’s order opening a disciplinary inquiry into a lawyer who sued former Vice President Mike Pence to prevent Congress to confirm Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.
The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals for the United States heard from a duty counsel at Vinson & Elkins who was asked to determine whether the attorney under investigation into the misconduct had standing to appeal.
In February, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg referred the lawyer who sued Pence, Erick Kaardal, before a federal court committee in Washington that is considering malpractice complaints against lawyers. Boasberg had concluded that Kaardal’s failed trial was “filled with baseless fraud allegations and tenuous legal claims.”
Kaardal, a trial attorney at Minneapolis-based law firm Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, is challenging Boasberg’s removal order. His lawyers argued in the DC Circuit that Boasberg acted outside his authority. Kaardal and his law firm are the only parts of the DC circuit.
Vinson & Elkins attorney Matthew Etchemendy, appointed by the DC Circuit to take a position on which there was no party, argued in Tuesday’s filing that Kaardal’s appeal should be dismissed as premature. Etchemendy did not address the merits of the appeal or the underlying legal process.
“The district court’s remand order did not authoritatively decide any legal issue or bind any party, and it did not mark the culmination of a judicial process but the initiation of a proceeding that may (or may not) lead to a final, appealable decision at a later date, âEtchemendy wrote.
He continued: “In this case, the district court did not act as an arbitrator, but as a plaintiff.”
Kaardal attorney Channing Shor of Eccleston & Wolf did not return a message seeking comment on Tuesday.
The DC Federal Court Grievance Board, made up of at least six members of the bar, conducts inquiries in private. Any formal accusation of misconduct by a lawyer becomes a public matter.
Etchemendy said Boasberg “did not even exercise a single judicial power in referring Mr Kaardal to the committee, because any member of the public can bring a similar complaint with materially identical legal consequences.”
Kaardal’s lawyers Argue Boasberg “should have used judicial restraint to further publicize his misconduct allegations on the public record.” They said Boasberg “sidestepped” confidentiality requirements by making his removal order public, and they argue the order could deter future litigants from making “vigorous client representation.”
Kaardal is one of a small group of lawyers facing ethical questions for their roles defending claims against Biden’s presidential victory.
A Michigan federal judge is considering a court fee order to sanction several lawyers who have unsuccessfully argued that Donald Trump beat Biden. Rudy Giuliani’s New York attorney’s license was suspended in June for claiming the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, his former client.
The case is Wisconsin Voters Alliance v. Harris, District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals for the United States, No. 21-5056.
For Erick Kaardal and Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson: Channing Shor and Justin Flint from Eccleston & Wolf
For amicus curiae: Matthew Etchemendy and Jeremy Marwell of Vinson & Elkins
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