Is There a Way to Halt Trump’s Baseless Election Fraud Cases?
The dozens of postelection lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign and his Republican supporters are hard to keep track of, but the scorecard is as clear as it is grim for the president’s side: one modest victory versus 55 losses—and counting.
The defeats are piling up so fast—the Supreme Court summarily rejected two lawsuits inside of four days—and the judges’ rebukes have been so withering that many people outside the legal profession wonder why trained lawyers are being allowed to persist in this doomed effort to overturn the results of an election that has been described by the president’s own elections officials as the “most secure in American history.” Isn’t there some kind of rule against this?
There is. In federal court (where 11 of the cases have been brought) it’s called Rule 11. And courts have used it many times to discourage the very kinds of legally insufficient and bad faith claims that have been advanced by Rudy Giuliani and his so-called elite strike force of attorneys.
First, it helps to understand how unusual it is that the president’s cases are getting tossed so quickly. Generally, plaintiffs get the benefit of the doubt when they’re filing lawsuits. If they have some combination of factual support for their complaint and an existing law to apply, courts are inclined to let the cases proceed. But the Trump campaign and its Republican allies are falling far short of even these low thresholds on evidentiary and legal grounds. And this is why judges have been so quick to shut them down or refuse to even hear them, as happened this week twice at the Supreme Court.
It’s not uncommon for people who proceed without counsel to bring spurious complaints about fanciful government conspiracies or file suits that misunderstand the law. Judges don’t usually penalize lay people for their mistakes. But when courts suspect that trained lawyers know of their cases’ shortcomings and deficiencies and filed them anyway, they can tell litigants “enough is enough.”
And the primary way federal judges do it is with Rule 11. Rule 11 is a congressionally sanctioned tool that enables judges to keep attorneys honest in their courtrooms. Its goal is to deter parties from filing and pursuing frivolous lawsuits, and ensuring fairness to those on the other side who might have been unfairly hauled into court. Baseless claims waste courts’ finite time and resources, clogging the judicial system and hindering meritorious claims from proceeding.
The question remains: Will any of the attorneys involved in these specious cases be held accountable by a judge? Rule 11 sanctions (and their state-law equivalents) are rare. But rare doesn’t mean non-existent.
Continue reading at Politico.