Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, personal attorney to U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 7, 2020.
Eduardo Munoz | Reuters
A New York court on Thursday suspended Rudy Giuliani from practicing law in the state, citing his “false and misleading statements” about the election loss of former President Donald Trump.
The suspension, which takes effect immediately, is a stunning blow to the 77-year-old Giuliani, a former New York mayor who was once a top Justice Department official and U.S. attorney in Manhattan.
It also comes as Giuliani is under criminal investigation by that same federal prosecutor’s office in connection with his work in Ukraine.
Since Trump’s defeat in November, the former president and his lawyer have made false claims about the legitimacy of President Joe Biden‘s victory. They claim, without evidence, that Trump was swindled out of a victory by widespread ballot fraud in key states.
Giuliani’s false statements about voting in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania — all states that Biden won — were cited in the scathing, 33-page suspension order issued by the Appellate Division of the First Judicial Department of New York state Supreme Court. That department encompasses the Bronx as well as Manhattan, where Giuliani’s law office is located.
The suspension, ordered a day before his 52nd anniversary as a licensed lawyer in New York, was sought by the Attorney Grievance Committee for the First Judicial Department.
The court’s order noted that “interim suspension is a serious remedy, available only in situations where it is immediately necessary to protect the public from” an attorney’s violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
The court flatly rejected Giuliani’s claims that the investigation of his conduct while representing Trump after the 2020 election violated his First Amendment rights of free speech.
“We conclude that there is uncontroverted evidence that respondent communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020,” the order said.
The court also said Giuliani’s “false statements were made to improperly bolster respondent’s narrative that due to widespread voter fraud, victory in the 2020 United States presidential election was stolen from his client.”
“We conclude that respondent’s conduct immediately threatens the public interest and warrants interim suspension from the practice of law, pending further proceedings before the Attorney Grievance Committee.”
Among the examples of conduct cited by the order was what it called Giuliani’s repeated false claims to a federal judge in Pennsylvania after Election Day that Trump’s campaign “was pursuing a fraud claim” in a lawsuit related to voting, “when indisputably it was not.”
Instead, the order noted, the campaign was making an equal protection claim, “not based on fraud at all.”
Another example cited by the order was Giuliani’s repeated claim in an effort to discredit election results that “dead people ‘voted’ in Philadelphia.”
Giuliani at various times claimed that 8,021 dead people’s ballots were cast, “while also reporting the number as 30,000.”
“As the anecdotal poster child to prove this point, he repeatedly stated that famous heavyweight boxer Joe Frazier continued to vote years after he was dead and stated on November 7, 2020 ‘he is still voting here,’ ” the order noted.
In fact, the order added, “The public records submitted on this motion unequivocally show that respondent’s statement is false. Public records show that Pennsylvania formally cancelled Mr. Frazier’s eligibility to vote on February 8, 2012, three months after he died.”
Giuliani also had falsely claimed, on different occasions, that Pennsylvania received more absentee ballots than the state had sent out before the election.
In response to the court’s inquiry, the order said, Giuliani did “not deny that his factual statement, that only 1.8 million mail-in ballots were requested, was untrue.”
“His defense is that he did not make this misstatement knowingly,” the order said. “Respondent claims that he relied on some unidentified member of his ‘team’ who ‘inadvertently; took the information from the Pennsylvania website, which had the information mistakenly listed.”
But the court found, “there is simply no proof to support this explanation. For instance, there is no affidavit from this supposed team member who is not identified by name or otherwise, nor is there any copy of the web page that purportedly listed the allegedly incorrect data.”
Giuliani’s suspension is temporary, pending the outcome of a full formal disciplinary hearing.
In a statement, his lawyers said: “We are disappointed with the Appellate Division, First Department’s decision suspending Mayor Giuliani prior to being afforded a hearing on the issues that are alleged.”
“This is unprecedented as we believe that our client does not pose a present danger to the public interest,” said the statement by John Leventhal and Barry Kamins, both retired judges.
“We believe that once the issues are fully explored at a hearing Mr. Giuliani will be reinstated as a valued member of the legal profession that he has served so well in his many capacities for so many years.”
The complaint to the Attorney Grievance Committee was filed by Democratic state Sen. Brad Hoylman of Manhattan. “I’m glad” about the suspension, he said.
“The profession of law is a sacred and noble one,” Hoylman said in a statement. “And there can be no room in the profession for those who seek to undermine and undo the rule of law as Rudy Giuliani has so flagrantly done.”
The suspension order was issued hours before an attorney for Giuliani was scheduled to appear in Washington federal court for a hearing on his bid to dismiss a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against him by Dominion Voting Systems.
Giuliani’s claims about Dominion were cited by the suspension order.
That voting machine company accuses Giuliani of causing “irreparable harm” to the business while he “cashed in” on the “Big Lie” that the race had been stolen from Trump through widespread fraud.
Giuliani’s lawyer in that case filed a motion in April to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing in part that Dominion’s action not brought in accordance with proper procedural standards.
Dominion has filed separate, billion-dollar defamation lawsuits against MyPillow and that company’s pro-Trump CEO, Mike Lindell, and the pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.
Additional reporting by CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger