A legal group filed a bar complaint against Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz on Friday claiming he violated legal ethics rules while representing former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake (R) in a failed voting machine lawsuit against Arizona Governor-Elect Katie Hobbs (D).
That lawsuit, Lake v. Hobbs, leveled a multi-pronged attack on the integrity of the Grand Canyon State’s election process – specifically in regard to the use of electronic ballot-counting devices. Originally filed in April of this year, the matter was dismissed in August. Earlier this month, Dershowitz and other attorneys who worked on the lawsuit were sanctioned in federal court.
The bar complaint largely focuses on a series of claims, attributed to Dershowitz, contained in that failed lawsuit and found to have been meritless. The filing refers to them as “unfounded conspiracy theories – easily proven false – with no basis in law or fact.”
The 65 Project, which describes itself as a bi-partisan group of “legal and political figures,” filed the complaint with the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers Office of Bar Counsel, an administrative body that investigates allegations of unethical conduct made against attorneys. The group that filed the complaint is named after 65 separate lawsuits filed by Donald Trump, allies, and fellow travelers in the aftermath of his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden.
One example cited by the bar complaint is the lawsuit’s claim that the infamous Cyber Ninja audit of Maricopa County voting machines showed a “significant” number of “discrepancies” between the vote totals reflected on software and the official reported results.
“However, this is untrue,” the bar complaint says. “There was, in fact, no substantial difference between the official results and the audit results.”
That’s essentially how county officials explained it as well, tweeting after the audit was finished that the “draft report from Cyber Ninjas confirms the county’s canvass of the 2020 General Election was accurate and the candidates certified as the winners did, in fact, win.”
The complaint cites the August order dismissing Lake’s lawsuit by Barack Obama-appointed U.S. District Judge John J. Tuchi:
There were no substantial differences between the hand count of the ballots provided and the official election canvass results for Maricopa County. This is an important finding because the paper ballots are the best evidence of voter intent, and there is no reliable evidence that the paper ballots were altered to any material degree.
In his Dec. 1, 2022, order issuing sanctions, the judge said that Lake and her co-plaintiff in the case “made false, misleading, and unsupported factual assertions” and further admonished the attorneys involved, writing that they “acted at least recklessly in unreasonably and vexatiously multiplying the proceedings by seeking a preliminary injunction based on [their clients’] frivolous claims.”
The bar complaint also dings Dershowitz for a claim in the Lake lawsuit that various election files and ballot images were deleted from vote-counting machines. This time, citing the granted motion for sanctions in the case, the complaint says that those cited files and images “were either not subpoenaed and so not provided, or were not located because of the Cyber Ninjas’ ineptitude.”
The bar complaint documents another discredited claim from the lawsuit, at length – again citing both Tuchi and the sanctions request:
To argue that Arizona had a huge risk of election tampering and manipulation, Mr. Dershowitz argued that “[a]ll electronic voting machines can be connected to the internet or cellular networks, directly or indirectly, at various steps in the voting, counting, tabulating, and/or reporting process.” This is false. As the Defendants noted, “Maricopa County’s vote tabulation system is not, never has been, and cannot be connected to the Internet. The Arizona Senate’s Special Master confirmed that Maricopa County uses an air-gapped system that ‘provides the necessary isolation from the public Internet, and in fact is in a self-contained environment” with “no wired or wireless connections in or out of the Ballot Tabulation Center’ so that ‘the election network and election devices cannot connect to the public Internet.'”
On three separate occasions, the bar complaint accuses Dershowitz of promoting “lies.”
“As with so many of these lies, the veracity of these claims could easily have been debunked with publicly available information, and with a reasonable inquiry from Mr. Dershowitz,” the complaint says. “Instead, he decided to promote these falsehoods and filed his complaint anyway.”
Specifically, the bar complaint alleges that Dershowitz violated three ethics rules prohibiting: (1) attorneys from bringing and defending legal claims they know lack merit; (2) that lawyers must respect the rights of third parties; and that (3) they must not knowingly “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”
In an email, Dershowitz downplayed his involvement in Lake’s litigation — and emphasized that it wasn’t his personal statement on the election.
“”I was not counsel in the case. I was ‘of counsel’ on the limited constitutional issue of whether a private company that is performing a governmental function can refuse to disclose relevant information on the ground of business secrets,” Dershowitz told Law&Crime. “This is an important issue. I take no position on the validity of the Arizona election.”
That statement closely echoes his remarks in response to the sanctions order, after which Dershowitz said: “I have not challenged the results of any Arizona elections. I have given legal advice about the future use of machine counting by companies that refuse to disclose the inner workings of their machines. I support transparency in elections.”
Lake, a former news anchor, lost the 2022 midterm election to Hobbs, the current secretary of state, by some 17,000 votes.
“Mr. Dershowitz has been involved in his fair share of scandals, but now he’s helping lead the attack on democracy,” David Brock, Co-Founder of The 65 Project, said in a press release. “Mr. Dershowitz previously sought to have two esteemed attorneys disbarred for speaking about his involvement in the Jeffrey Epstein matter. If Mr. Dershowitz thought that was a proper basis for disbarment, then certainly his conduct in violating court rules for fraudulent election conspiracy claims warrants discipline. Mr. Dershowitz should have as much regard for American democracy as he does for himself.”
Late Friday, Lake filed a new lawsuit.
The latest lawsuit alleges that “hundreds of thousands” of “illegal votes” exceed the margin between herself and Hobbs and “infected the election in Maricopa County.” The filing, also alleging “intentional misconduct,” seeks to have the 2022 election results overturned and asks a court to set aside the Democrat’s win and install the Republican candidate or, in the alternative, to re-run the election.
Dershowitz is not a named attorney in Lake’s election denial claim.
[images: Lake via screengrab/YouTube; Dershowitz via Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images]
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