Michigan commission: Discipline 'Kraken' lawyers for lawsuit to overturn 2020 election

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The Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission filed a complaint with the state's Attorney Discipline Board recommending disciplinary action against Sidney Powell and the team of lawyers that filed a conspiracy-laden lawsuit to overturn the 2020 election.

A federal judge in August 2021 found that the attorneys abused the legal system to damage voters' faith in the election system. That order imposed sanctions on the attorneys and referred them to the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission and other attorney disciplinary authorities for possible suspension or disbarment.

Powell's lawsuit mirrored others to thwart the will of voters in other battleground states won by President Joe Biden, calling it part of a legal strategy that would "release the Kraken" — a reference to the film "Clash of the Titans." Former President Donald Trump repeated the false claims leveled in the lawsuit in the wake of the 2020 election.

Sidney Powell, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters, Thursday Nov. 19, 2020, in Washington.
Sidney Powell, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters, Thursday Nov. 19, 2020, in Washington.

In addition to Powell, the "Kraken" lawyers referred to the Attorney Discipline Board for possible disciplinary action are Gregory Rohl, Richard Scott Hagerstrom, Stefanie Junttila, Julia Haller, Brandon Johnson, Emily Newman, Howard Kleinhendler and Lin Wood. Hagerstrom, Junttila and Rohl are currently licensed to practice law in Michigan.

The State Bar of Texas previously attempted to discipline Powell, but a Texas judge dismissed the disciplinary case against her earlier this year.

More: Kraken lawyers appear to comply with sanctions order for conspiracy-laden election lawsuit

More: Appeals court to look at sanctions imposed on Kraken lawyers

Among the alleged misconduct laid out in the complaint from the Attorney Grievance Commission dated May 1, the attorneys are accused of "bringing or defending a proceeding, or asserting or controverting an issue therein, where the basis for doing so is frivolous" and "engaging in conduct that is contrary to justice, ethics, honesty, or good morals."

In response to complaints filed with the Attorney Discipline Board, the board will appoint a three-person panel of volunteer attorneys to hear the matter, according to the Michigan Grievance Commission’s website. The panel will determine whether the attorneys named in the complaint engaged in misconduct. The panel can then decide what disciplinary action to take, such as a reprimand, suspension, disbarment or probation.

In December 2021, U.S. District Judge Linda Parker ordered the group of nine attorneys involved in the lawsuit to pay more than $175,000 to cover legal fees incurred by the state and the city of Detroit in defending against the allegations of widespread election fraud leveled in the lawsuit debunked by post-election audits, court rulings and reviews that upheld Biden's victory in Michigan.

Powell and her team of lawyers have appealed those sanctions. The matter is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

The appeals court previously denied requests from Powell and some of the other lawyers to skirt continuing legal education imposed by the lower court for their 2020 lawsuit. With the deadline to complete that coursework looming, Powell and five of the other sanctioned lawyers argued the requirement infringed on their First Amendment rights and asked the appeals court to suspend the requirement. Junttila — another attorney involved in the "Kraken" lawsuit — filed her own motion seeking to suspend the court order.

The appeals court chided the attorneys for their last-minute filings. All attorneys appeared to complete the coursework.

Clara Hendrickson fact-checks Michigan issues and politics as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support her work at bit.ly/freepRFA. Contact her at chendrickson@freepress.com or 313-296-5743. Follow her on Twitter @clarajanehen.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan commission files complaint against Sidney Powell, lawyers