Sidney Powell, team could pay up to $204,000 in bid to overturn Michigan election

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

The lawyers who sought to overturn the results of Michigan's 2020 presidential election might have to pay up to $204,156 to cover the legal costs of the state and the city of Detroit.

The state and city detailed in court filings Wednesday how much they spent to fight the high-profile and unsuccessful suit that aimed to have Republican Donald Trump named Michigan's winner despite the fact he lost by 154,000 votes to Democrat Joe Biden.

Attorney Sidney Powell speaks during a news conference about lawsuits contesting the results of the presidential election at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington on Nov. 19, 2020.

Fourteen days earlier, U.S. District Judge Linda Parker had ruled in favor of sanctioning the nine attorneys, including Texas lawyer Sidney Powell and Georgia lawyer Lin Wood, who brought the case in November on behalf of six Trump supporters in Michigan.

Parker said sanctions were required against the attorneys "to deter the filing of future frivolous lawsuits designed primarily to spread the narrative that our election processes are rigged and our democratic institutions cannot be trusted."

"It is further ordered that plaintiffs’ attorneys shall jointly and severally pay the fees and costs incurred by the state defendants and the city of Detroit to defend this action," Parker wrote in her decision.

Parker gave the state and city 14 days to submit information on what it cost them to fight the case.  Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office proposed the state be awarded $21,964 based on affidavits from two of its employees who worked on the litigation: Heather Meingast and Erik Grill.

The city of Detroit's lawyers said their total hourly charges for fighting the suit at the trial court level were $39,999, charges related to appellate matters were $26,077 and charges pertaining to motions for sanctions were $116,116. The firm Fink Bressack primarily handled the case for Detroit, which intervened in the suit as a defendant because many of the election claims focused on how absentee ballots were counted in the city.

The lawyers who brought the suit now have 14 days to object to the filings from the state and city, according to Parker's order.

The judge previously required a copy of her Aug. 25 sanctions decision be sent to state disciplinary boards for the possible suspension or disbarment of the nine attorneys involved in the suit. The attorneys are Powell, Wood, Emily Newman, Julia Haller, Brandon Johnson, Scott Hagerstrom, Howard Kleinhendler, Gregory Rohl and Stefanie Lynn Junttila. Parker ordered them to complete 12 hours of continuing legal education in pleading standards and election law.

Attorneys have an obligation to present "only tenable claims" with due diligence and in good faith, the judge ruled. But the attorneys in the election case presented claims backed by neither evidence nor law, she wrote.

The lawyers who brought the case have criticized Parker's handling of the matter, calling it "political." Powell has contended that the legal team had a duty to raise difficult issues on behalf of their clients.

"We have practiced law with the highest standards," Powell said in July. "We would file the same complaints again. We welcome an opportunity to actually prove our case. No court has ever given us that opportunity."

Staff Writer Beth LeBlanc contributed.