Days after a law firm representing the Trump campaign withdrew from the case following a pressure campaign from the anti-Trump Lincoln Project to 'cancel' them, another Trump attorney says she's being harassed for her involvement in the case.
Philadelphia attorney Linda Kerns said in a late Sunday court filing that an attorney with law firm Kirkland & Ellis in Washington left her a one-minute voice mail that "falls afoul of the standards of professional conduct." Of note, Kirkland & Ellis represents PA Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a defendant in the case.
"Since this case was filed, undersigned counsel has been subjected to continuous harassment in the form of abuse e-mails, phone calls, physical and economic threats, and even accusations of treason - all for representing the President of the United States' campaign..." wrote Kerns in her filing.
"On November 14, 2020 at 8:43 a.m., an attorney at Kirkland & Ellis left a one-minute voicemail for undersigned counsel. The voicemail ... speaks for itself and by any measure falls afoul of standards of professional conduct."
Kirkland & Ellis's attorney in the case initially tried to suggest it wasn't one of their employees who made the call - before eventually admitting it was. They then 'excused the conduct by saying the lawyer (who works in the same office) does not work on this case or in litigation,' though agreed that the call was 'discourteous.'
As constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley writes at JonathanTurley.org regarding the effort to 'cancel' Trump's lawyers (emphasis ours):
Within 24 hours of the election being called, the media and an array of legal analysts declared no evidence of voter fraud to change the outcome. The problem was that we had not even seen the Trump campaign’s filings or evidence. As Trump lawyers began to file cases, alleging everything from deceased voters to biased authentication, the solution became clear: Get rid of the lawyers. No lawyers, no cases, no Trump.
What is most unsettling is that this effort is led or cheered on by lawyers. Take Washington Post columnist Randall Eliason, who gained notoriety supporting an array of theories on impeachment or criminal claims against Trump, including a bribery interpretation long rejected by the Supreme Court and not adopted even by the impeachment-eager House Judiciary Committee. Eliason wrote a column, “Yes, going after Trump’s law firms is fair game.” (Everything seems fair game if the ultimate target is Trump.) Eliason shrugged off the notion that attacking a person’s lawyers, rather than his positions, is beyond the pale: “Law is a profession, but these mega-law firms are also big businesses. Like any business, they can be held accountable by the public — and by their other customers.”
The law is not like any other business, however. Lawyers speak for others, including some of the least popular among us. I have represented clients ranging from judges, members of Congress and whistleblowers to spies, terrorists and polygamists. Many were hated by the public, who demanded that I be fired from my law school — but I have never seen such a campaign led by lawyers against lawyers.
Our legal system works best when competent lawyers present cases to dispassionate judges. In this case, some 72 million Americans voted for Trump, and many believe changes in the process — particularly the massive increase of mail-in voting — undermined the election’s integrity. That is why these cases are important: Faith in our legal and political systems depends on fair access to and representation in the courts.
As in the past, there is a disturbing symbiosis of the media and activists feeding off each other. When Biden was viewed as the likely winner, theories of voting irregularities instantly became “conspiracy theories.” Groups like the Lincoln Project targeted law firms and launched a campaign to force lawyers to abandon Trump as a client.
This effort resulted in Twitter blocking the Lincoln Project for targeting individual Trump lawyers in a tweet (accompanied by a skull-and-crossbones emoji) that was deemed threatening and abusive. That only seemed to thrill the Lincoln Project. It reportedly joined Democrats in targeting law firms like Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur and threatening its lawyers with professional ruin. It claimed that any firm working for Trump on election litigation was part of a “dangerous attack on our democracy.” Trying to strip people of their counsel, of course, is the real attack on our democracy — and it worked: The firm buckled and withdrew, saying the pressure caused internal struggles and at least one lawyer’s resignation.
Other campaigns have targeted individual lawyers and what used to be called “fellow travelers” during the McCarthy period. After the election, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called for liberals to assemble enemies lists of those “complicit” in the Trump administration. (Ironically, the first entry by a Bernie Sanders surrogate were the Republicans who founded the Lincoln Project). Former Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan proudly tweeted: “WH staff are starting to look for jobs. Employers considering them should know there are consequences for hiring anyone who helped Trump attack American values.”
However, the effort to intimidate lawyers representing Trump or his campaign is not about vengeance. It is about insurance. Even though the success of these challenges is small and shrinking, opponents do not want to risk any judicial scrutiny of the vote. Social media campaigns targeted the clients of firms like Jones Day, while the Lincoln Project pledged $500,000 to make the lives of these lawyers a living hell. It is the kind of tactic used by Antifa and other activists to “deplatform” speakers or harass individuals at their homes.
Trump is highly unpopular with many Americans — and virtually all of the media — so it is popular to harass anyone who supports or represents him. It is mob justice targeting the justice system itself. Yet, lawyers like Eliason are applauding the effort.
Eliason justifies such harassment by saying the Trump campaign and Republican groups “have filed lawsuits that appear to contain baseless allegations of fraud and that seek to have lawful votes rejected.” Note the word “appear.” Eliason did not know when he wrote the column because he has not seen the evidence. Neither have I. We only began to see underlying evidence (or the lack thereof) this week as courts held hearings into pending motions. It is the difference between wanting something to be true and knowing something to be true. That is generally what courts determine.
Yet, there is little patience for discussing, let alone litigating, these legal issues. On Friday, I discussed these challenges, including a Michigan district where thousands of Trump votes were initially tallied as Biden votes; the district used the same voting software that has been the subject of much national debate. While I explained that the mistaken tally resulted from human error and “nothing nefarious,” the question remains whether such new systems or software might be vulnerable to human errors. Despite my stating there was no evidence of systemic problems, Colorado Law Professor Paul Campos denounced me as akin to a “Holocaust denier” who should be fired.
Notably, the person most undermined by these efforts is Joe Biden. Rather than call for a transparent review of these cases to affirm his legitimacy as president-elect, his supporters are harassing lawyers and running a hysterical campaign of retaliation. It is an ironic twist: For years, many of us marveled at how guilty Trump looked in his efforts to bully accusers and scuttle the Russia investigation. The best thing for Trump would have been to support a full, open investigation. Likewise, there is no compelling evidence of systemic election fraud now, and the best thing for Biden would be to support a full, open investigation. Threats and biased media coverage only deepen the suspicions of Trump voters.
There is an alternative. We can all agree that every vote should be counted and every voting case be heard. Our political and legal systems both require a leap of faith — and this crisis of faith has now moved from the political to the legal system. Courts are supposed to be where reason transcends the rage that reigns outside the courthouse. However, it still requires lawyers.