2 Wisconsin lawyers are among 15 subjected to ethics complaints over false election challenges in Wisconsin, elsewhere

Jim Bopp, a conservative attorney from Indiana, is among those The 65 Project has targeted over their work related to lawsuits tied to the 2020 election.
Jim Bopp, a conservative attorney from Indiana, is among those The 65 Project has targeted over their work related to lawsuits tied to the 2020 election.

A pair of Wisconsin lawyers are among 15 attorneys from several states named in ethics complaints over their ungrounded attempts to undo the 2020 presidential election.

The 65 Project filed the complaints Wednesday with the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation against Michael D. Dean of Brookfield and Daniel J. Eastman of Mequon.

The group, named after the number of lawsuits filed by supporters of former President Donald Trump in the wake of his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden, also filed complaints about lawyers licensed in five other states, several of whom helped file cases in Wisconsin.

The group previously filed 25 other complaints against lawyers involved in the false electors schemes and the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

The project describes itself as "a bipartisan, nonprofit effort to protect democracy from abuse of the legal system by holding accountable lawyers who engage in fraudulent and malicious efforts to overturn legitimate elections."

Managing director Michael Teter of Utah said: "We want to show there are professional consequences" for bringing litigation bases on unfounded claims. The complaints, he said, are aimed at deterring similar actions in the future.

"So the next time, Michael Dean and lawyers like him don't answer the call" from big-name political operatives like Trump lawyer Rudy Guiliani, Teter said.

Dean and Eastman did not immediately respond to requests by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to discuss the complaints Wednesday. The OLR does not confirm receipt of complaints or its investigations unless and until it files an action.

Seven of the complaints are against Indiana lawyers, including James Bopp, for his role in helping Michael Gableman's failed investigation of Wisconsin's 2020 election. Others were filed with lawyer discipline agencies in New York, Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky

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The complaint against Dean reads, in part: "By filing a frivolous lawsuit untethered to either law or fact and in seeking an extreme remedy unheard of in any court of law, Mr. Dean not only crossed, but blew past, the ethical standards to which he is bound."

On Nov. 12, 2020, Dean, with the help of out-of-state lawyers, filed an action in federal court that mirrored those filed in Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania — other states Trump lost narrowly to Biden.

Dean dropped the suit, known as Langenhorst v. Pecore, four days later.

On Dec. 20, 2020, Dean filed Feehan v. the Wisconsin Elections Commission, again in coordination with similar suits filed in other states, part of what Trump lawyer Sydney Powell referred to as "releasing the Kraken."

The suits sought to have a judge throw out the election results and declare Trump the winner, based on wild theories, speculation and lies. The cases were all thrown out.

“Plaintiffs’ alleged injury does not entitle them to seek their requested remedy because the harm of having one’s vote invalidated or diluted is not remedied by denying millions of others their right to vote,” wrote Chief U.S. District Court Judge Pamela Pepper in the Wisconsin case.

The complaint calls on the Office of Lawyer Regulation to investigate whether Dean violated four rules: against bringing actions without merit, making false statements to the court, disrespecting rights of the third parties, and generally violating his oath to act truthfully and with honor.

"Mr. Dean chose to offer his professional license to an assault on our democracy. He pursued litigation that lacked any basis in law or fact. He participated in an organized effort to sow discord and doubt about the 2020 elections," it reads.

"He helped lead the charge in Wisconsin to disenfranchise millions of his fellow citizens because he did not like how they voted. For the reasons set forth above, we respectfully request that the Office of Lawyer Regulation investigate Mr. Dean’s conduct and pursue appropriate discipline."

The complaint against Eastman makes the same claims but only for his participation in the Dec. 20, 2020 "Kraken" lawsuit.

Complaint cites James Bopp's role in Wisconsin election probe

The 65 Project filed an ethics complaint about Bopp in Pennsylvania in July. Wednesday's complaint to Indiana's lawyer discipline agency specifically cites Bopp's role in Wisconsin, aiding Michael Gableman's supposed probe of the 2020 election.

A judge found Gableman, a former state Supreme Court justice, in contempt, referred him for discipline and withdrew the temporary admission to practice in Wisconsin for Bopp and several others.

The Indiana complaint includes a copy of the project's Pennsylvania filing, and Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington's lengthy order detailing why he was withdrawing permission for Bopp and his team to work in Wisconsin.

"It appears that a serious risk exists that Mr. Bopp will repeat such conduct unless appropriately disciplined. We ask your office to expedite this matter," The 65 Project complaint reads.

Others named in Wednesday's complaints include: 

• Courtney Milbank, an Indiana lawyer who helped Bopp in the Gableman matter.

• Emily Newman, a Virginia lawyer involved in the December 2020 "Kraken" suits in Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Arizona.

• Richard Coleson, an Indiana lawyer involved in the Wisconsin and Michigan suits. 

• James Knauer, Kevin Koons and William Bock III, all Indiana lawyers, for a lawsuit filed in Wisconsin federal court on Dec. 2, 2020, on behalf of  Donald J. Trump for President against the Wisconsin Election Commission and other defendants.

• Jeffrey P. Gallant, a Virginia lawyer, and Robert M. Citak of Kentucky, who filed the Nov. 12, 2020, case in Wisconsin with Dean.

• Julia Z. Haller, a Maryland lawyer, who was part of the Kraken lawsuits in December 2020.

• Brandon Johnson and Howard Kleinhendler of New York for their work on Kraken cases and a Texas lawsuit.

• Melena S. Seibert, Indiana, for work on the Kraken case in Georgia.

The biggest names behind the barrage of failed legal challenges to the election are already facing lawyer discipline actions largely initiated by courts, not The 65 Project.

Giuliani is suspended from practicing law in New York and Washington, D.C.

Powell faces disciplinary action in Texas.

Lin Wood has been fighting the Georgia bar's demand that he undergo a mental evaluation, as part of its investigation into the ethics of his election actions and other behavior.

John Eastman is under investigation by the State Bar of California.

Jeffrey Clark, Trump's choice to take over as attorney general in the days leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, has already been found to have violated professional rules of conduct.

Contact Bruce Vielmetti at (414) 224-2187 or bvielmetti@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ProofHearsay.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Accountability group files lawyer ethics complaints in election cases