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‘Sanctionable from the get-go’: Wisconsin governor urges appeals court to make ‘Kraken’ lawyer to pay up for ‘frivolous’ election suit

Sidney Powell and Tony Evers

Sidney Powell and Gov. Tony Evers (Screenshots: Powell via Australia’s ABC; Evers via PBS)

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) urged a federal appeals court to make the lead attorney for the so-called “Kraken” series of post-2020 election lawsuits pay up for her “frivolous” litigation.

“This case was sanctionable from the get-go,” the governor’s attorney Jeffrey Mandell, a partner at Stafford Rosenbaum, said during oral arguments on Wednesday. “There was never any jurisdiction. This case was frivolous. This case never should have been brought.”

In August 2022, a federal judge rejected Evers’ request for $106,000 in attorneys’ fees in connection with Powell’s failed lawsuit seeking to overturn the election results in the Badger State. Powell and her legal team filed four lawsuits seeking to overturn President Joe Biden’s victories in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin. All four lawsuits quickly failed, and the Michigan prong of Powell’s offensive led to the issuance of a scorching sanctions order referring all of the attorneys who brought the litigation for possible discipline or disbarment.

By comparison, Evers’ six-figure sanctions request was more modest, but U.S. District Judge Pamela Pepper found that the governor’s ask was procedurally improper and came too late.

“The defendant did not file his motion for sanctions until almost four months after this court dismissed the case,” Pepper noted, adding that she didn’t believe that she had jurisdiction.

The better part of roughly half-hour oral arguments before the Seventh Circuit circled around those jurisdictional and timeliness arguments, rather than the underlying effort to topple the presidential election results.

Even Powell, who made far-flung conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems and international intrigue a pivot point of her litigation, stuck to more mundane jurisdictional arguments on appeal.

“This is a sanctions matter, which is punitive in nature and which the district court clearly did not have jurisdiction to entertain long after this court’s mandate had issued,” Powell said during oral arguments.

Powell’s Wisconsin lawsuit was the last tentacle of her “Kraken” litigation to be severed and discarded.

Despite avoiding sanctions, Powell received a lacerating ruling from the judge in its dismissal.

“Federal judges do not appoint the president in this country,” Pepper wrote on Dec. 9, 2020. “One wonders why the plaintiffs came to federal court and asked a federal judge to do so. After a week of sometimes odd and often harried litigation, the court is no closer to answering the ‘why.’ But this federal court has no authority or jurisdiction to grant the relief the remaining plaintiff seeks.”

During her deposition for the Jan. 6 Committee, Powell testified that former President Donald Trump asked her to be special counsel to investigate the 2020 election results.

The “Kraken” takes its name from the mythical octopus-like creature dramatized in the Hollywood blockbuster “Clash of the Titans.” Both the movie monster and the litigation were quickly slain.

Attorney Lin Wood, a once-prominent defamation attorney who joined in that effort, faces a contempt hearing on Thursday afternoon, in his litigation against his former law partners.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."