A federal judge has ordered the lawyers behind one of the so-called “Kraken” lawsuits, who filed suit over non-existent election-altering voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, to pay more than $175,000 in fees to lawyers who defended the state of Michigan and the of city of Detroit against “meritless” claims.
Sidney Powell, L. Lin Wood, and five other attorneys named on the lawsuit sued Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), and the Michigan Board of State Canvassers in late November of 2020, challenging the state’s results in the 2020 presidential election. They sued on behalf of six local Republicans after Joe Biden’s win over Donald Trump in the state had already been certified.
U.S. District Judge Linda V. Parker rejected the claims in December 2020, and on Thursday determined the amount owed to the lawyers who defended the case.
“Plaintiffs’ attorneys filed this lawsuit without conducting the required degree of diligence as to the truth of the allegations made or the merits of the legal claims asserted,” Parker wrote in her ruling. “Unlike the typical case where sanctions are awarded, more was at risk in this matter than one or even a few defendants having to defend a meritless, repetitive, and/or nuisance lawsuit.”
Powell had compared the series of lawsuits brought after the election to the mythical “Kraken,” a destructive, octopus-like sea monster from Scandinavian mythology. None of the lawsuits succeeded.
When Parker rejected the claims, she wrote that the plaintiffs’ request was “stunning in its scope and breathtaking in its reach. If granted, the relief would disenfranchise the votes of the more than 5.5 million Michigan citizens who, with dignity, hope, and a promise of a voice, participated in the 2020 General Election.”
Parker determined in August that lawyers for Michigan and Detroit were entitled to sanctions from the “Kraken” lawyers, whose lawsuit “represents a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.”
“It is one thing to take on the charge of vindicating rights associated with an allegedly fraudulent election,” Powell wrote at the time, “It is another to take on the charge of deceiving a federal court and the American people into believing that rights were infringed, without regard to whether any laws or rights were in fact violated. This is what happened here.”
All told, the lawyers were ordered to pay $21,964.75 to the state of Michigan, and $153,285.62 to the city of Detroit.
Parker specifically noted that the lawyers should be able to draw from their fundraising efforts in order to pay the award.
“Plaintiffs’ attorneys, many of whom seek donations from the public to fund lawsuits like this one, see https://defendingtherepublic.org/, have the ability to pay this sanction,” Parker wrote at the end of the ruling, referring to Sidney Powell’s group.
Lawyers for the attorneys had argued that the amount to Detroit should be reduced because it received the same result as Michigan, but billed five times that of attorneys for the state.
Parker found this argument unpersuasive.
“While the parties on one side of an action may have obtained the same result, that does not mean the issues focused upon were handled with the same manner or with the same depth,” Parker wrote. “Further, there were issues raised by Plaintiffs’ attorneys that specifically concerned only the City. Finally, with limited exceptions discussed infra, the Court finds the number of hours billed by the City’s counsel unsurprising and not excessive given the complexity of the issues involved in this matter, the quality of the briefing and arguments presented, and the significance of this litigation to our democracy.”
Attorneys for Powell, Wood, and the others also said the reward should be reduced because lawyers for the city billed for the work of multiple lawyers doing the same activity. Parker noted that this practice is not inherently unreasonable, and said that the plaintiffs’ complaint demanded such “duplicative” efforts.
“[T]his was a complex case which, by Plaintiffs’ account, needed to be resolved rapidly,” Parker wrote. “Plaintiffs’ Complaint, along with attached exhibits, exceeded 800 pages. Their Amended Complaint, with exhibits, exceeded 900 pages. The length of the pleadings alone justifies the contribution of multiple attorneys to sort through Plaintiffs’ allegations [citations removed].”
Parker also said fees incurred to pursue the sanctions award are not unreasonable.
“This case is not that straightforward,” Parker wrote. “Here, sanctions were not imposed based solely on a single offensive filing … Plaintiffs’ counsel unreasonably and vexatiously multiplied the proceedings.”
State officials praised Powell’s ruling.
“The awarding of fees further holds accountable the attorneys who worked to distort our democracy in favor of lining their own pockets,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) said in a press release Thursday. “These attorneys demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the law and attempted to use the courts to further a false and destructive narrative. While there is likely no amount of money that can undo the damage they caused, I am happy to see these sanctions handed down.”
Benson, the Michigan Secretary of State, agreed with the ruling, but said it won’t undo the damage the case caused to American voters.
“There are consequences to filing meritless lawsuits to grab media attention and mislead Americans,” Benson said in the press release. “The sanctions awarded in this case are a testament to that, even if the dollar amounts pale in comparison to the damage that’s already been done to our nation’s democracy.”
David Fink, an attorney for the city of Detroit, indicated a hope that there would be more consequences for the attorneys behind the lawsuit.
“These attorneys abused their bar privileges promoting the Big Lie,” Fink told Law&Crime. “They must pay a price, and this is a good start.”
Parker, a Barack Obama appointee, ordered that payment of the sanctions would be stayed if the parties decide to appeal. Law&Crime reached out to an attorney for Powell and the other attorneys, but did not hear back in time for publication.
Wood told the Washington Post that he plans to appeal.
“I undertook no act in Michigan and I had no involvement in the Michigan lawsuit filed by Sidney Powell,” he said in an email, the Post reported. During an explosive sanctions hearing in July, Wood acknowledged that his name was on the complaint but said he didn’t draft the document or give express permission to put his name on the filing.
“I played absolutely no role in the drafting of the complaint,” he said.
“I did not review any of the documents with respect to the complaint,” Wood added later: “I just had no involvement in it whatsoever.”
Powell said that she would not have knowingly added Wood’s name without authorization.
“Might there have been a misunderstanding?” she asked, rhetorically. “That’s certainly possible.”
A skeptical Judge Parker answered: “This appears to the court to be an after-the-fact assessment.”
“We disagree with the district court’s decision in its entirety and we plan to promptly appeal to the Sixth Circuit,” said Howard Kleinhendler, one of the lawyers who also represents Powell, according to the Post.
Parker’s is the second significant sanctions ruling in two weeks for Whitmer. On Nov. 22, a federal magistrate in Colorado ordered two lawyers to pay more than $175,000 in fees to Whitmer, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), Facebook (now Meta), Dominion Voting Systems, the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) and other defendants for the time their legal teams spent on motions to dismiss another case alleging widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
You can read the sanctions ruling, below.
[Images via YouTube screengrab.]
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