Two lawyers who went to court to claim voter fraud after the 2020 election must pay nearly $180,000 to the defendants they sued, a federal magistrate judge ordered Monday, saying their lawsuit aimed to “manipulate gullible members of the public and foment public unrest.”
The order from Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter of the US District Court in Colorado adds to the federal judiciary’s condemnations of attempts by attorneys supporting then-President Donald Trump to use the courts to vet right-wing conspiracies in the days after the presidential election.
Attorneys Gary D. Fielder and Ernest John Walker will have to pay attorneys fees of $50,000 to Facebook (now Meta), about $63,000 to Dominion Voting Systems, about $63,000 to the non-profit Center for Tech and Civic Life, more than $6,000 to the state of Pennsylvania and nearly $5,000 to the state of Michigan.
“They need to take responsibility for their misconduct,” Neureiter wrote in his order, adding that the lawsuit defamed the defendants.
He continued: “I believe that rather than a legitimate use of the legal system to seek redress for redressable grievances, this lawsuit has been used to manipulate gullible members of the public and foment public unrest. To that extent, this lawsuit has been an abuse of the legal system and an interference with the machinery of government. For all these reasons, I feel that a significant sanctions award is merited.”
The lawsuit from late December 2020 was an attempt to create a class action challenge to the election on behalf of American voters, including eight named plaintiffs. Neureiter previously wrote a scathing 68-page opinion condemning the post-election lawsuit.
The plaintiffs had no lawyers or experts that were able to support their claims of switched votes and government conspiracies, the judge noted, calling the lawsuit itself “one enormous conspiracy theory.”
Neureiter’s earlier ruling was the first major consequence in federal court to befall lawyers and litigants who pushed Trump’s attempt to undermine the 2020 election result in court. Other courts are still considering penalties for other lawyers involved in the failed pro-Trump lawsuits.
In August, a federal judge in Michigan sanctioned pro-Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, as well as several other attorneys, ordering them to reimburse the attorneys’ fees that the city of Detroit and Michigan state officials paid in seeking the sanctions. The judge said the lawyers, who worked on Trump-aligned lawsuits seeking to challenge election results, had “engaged in litigation practices” that were “abusive and, in turn, sanctionable.”