Pro-Trump lawyers want to slash payments to Detroit over election case

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lawyers who sought to overturn Michigan's 2020 election asked a federal judge on Wednesday to dramatically cut the amount of money they might have to pay Detroit because of the unsuccessful litigation.

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

Their legal costs totaled about $204,156, according to the filings. On Wednesday, the lawyers who could have to pay the costs proposed trimming the price tag to no more than $43,928, less than a fourth of the proposed amount.

Attorney Sidney Powell speaks during a news conference about lawsuits contesting the results of the presidential election on Nov. 19, 2020. (Photo for The Washington Post by Sarah Silbiger)

U.S. District Judge Linda Parker previously ruled in favor of sanctioning the attorneys who brought the Michigan election case based on unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud and having them jointly pay the legal costs of the state and city.

In the Wednesday objection, Donald Campbell, a Southfield attorney representing Texas lawyer Sidney Powell and five others, did not oppose the $21,964 in costs the state of Michigan is seeking. But he argued that Detroit should receive no more than that amount.

The proposed total from the city "is far more than necessary to compensate the city and deter misconduct," Campbell said, noting that Detroit intervened in the original case as a defendant.

"To the contrary, any award of fees to the city of Detroit would actually encourage additional litigation by non-parties purely for the purpose of collecting fees they generated by their own intervention and litigation," Campbell said.

The state's figure for costs represents an eighth of the $182,192 Detroit's lawyers have said it took the city to fight the lawsuit and push for sanctions in the case. Campbell argued that $26,077 in Detroit's costs related to appellate matters cannot be awarded by Parker.

And he said the fact that Detroit spent more than five times the amount the state fighting the litigation suggests the total "is far more than necessary" to compensate the city or to deter similar conduct in the future.

Parker 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, Lin Wood, Emily Newman, Julia Haller, Brandon Johnson, Scott Hagerstrom, Howard Kleinhendler, Gregory Rohl and Stefanie Lynn Junttila. The judge ordered them to complete 12 hours of continuing legal education in pleading standards and election law.

Campbell is representing all of the lawyers except Wood, Newman and Junttila.