Whitmer, Nessel seek disbarment of lawyers in election challenge

Craig Mauger Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan's three top officeholders are seeking the disbarment of four attorneys who were involved in a lawsuit that attempted to overturn the results of the presidential election.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, three Democrats who are lawyers themselves, filed complaints Monday with the Attorney Grievance Commission in Michigan and the State Bar of Texas.

Their filings ask that Michigan attorneys Greg Rohl, Scott Hagerstrom and Stefanie Junttila and Texas attorney Sidney Powell be disbarred and lose the ability to practice law in their states.

Attorney Sidney Powell, a member of President Donald Trump's legal team, speaks during a rally on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Alpharetta, Ga.

Nessel said the attorneys were involved in a suit "based on falsehoods, used their law license in an attempt to disenfranchise Michigan voters and undermine the faith of the public in the legitimacy of the recent presidential election, and lent credence to untruths that led to violence and unrest."

"The 2020 general election was the most secure in our nation’s history, and these lawyers abused their authority by filing meritless, frivolous lawsuits for the sole purpose of undermining public faith in the election," Benson said in a press release. "They must be held accountable for this unprecedented attack on our democracy and prevented from replicating such harm in the future."

Rohl, Hagerstrom, Junttila and Powell were involved in the King v. Whitmer lawsuit, which asked federal courts to overturn President Joe Biden's win in Michigan based on a bevy of conspiracy theories and claims contradicted by election experts.

Biden, a Democrat, won Michigan by 154,000 votes, but supporters of Republican Donald Trump sought to question the result based on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

Nationally, Powell is the most well known of the four attorneys. She was involved in failed election challenges in multiple swing states. She once described her legal effort as releasing the "kraken."

On Dec. 7, Detroit U.S. District Court Judge Linda Parker of Michigan's Eastern District rejected the Michigan lawsuit, saying the effort aimed to "ignore the will of millions of voters."

The suit seemed "less about achieving the relief" the GOP plaintiffs sought and "more about the impact of their allegations on people’s faith in the democratic process and their trust in our government," the judge wrote.

Junttila declined to comment on the suggestion that she be disbarred. 

The City of Detroit and Nessel have already sought legal sanctions against the attorneys in the Eastern District of Michigan.

With those sanction requests still pending, it is "entirely inappropriate" to file a bar complaint, said Howard Kleinhendler, who was a co-counsel in the King case and is representing Powell in the sanction actions.

"It very much shows there’s a political motive here and not a desire to preserve the integrity of the legal profession," Kleinhendler said. 

The court system is the proper venue for addressing the complaints, but Nessel has tried to block Americans from their day in court by filing "Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation," Hagerstrom said in a Monday statement. 

"Nessel’s lack of dedication to seeking the truth, the use of her office in zealously defending partisan Democrat Party positions and her hostile position towards legitimate concerns by citizens across our state is what undermines faith in our electoral system and sows the seed of discontent among the public," Hagerstrom said. 

Rohl called the actions "political folly."

"Essentially, a witch hunt run amok," he said. "Censorship at this level is reminiscent of the dark age of Nazi Germany."