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D.C. Bar counsel urges Giuliani be disbarred after panel says he most likely committed ethics violation

The panel's tentative finding, which isn’t final, came after Giuliani defended his work on a lawsuit that sought to toss out the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania.
Image: Rudy Giuliani
Rudy Giuliani arrives for a news conference at the Republican National Committee about lawsuits over the outcome of the 2020 presidential election on Nov. 19, 2020.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

The D.C. Bar's disciplinary counsel recommended Thursday that Rudy Giuliani be disbarred after a hearing panel tentatively determined that he most likely violated at least one professional conduct rule in his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania.

The panel said its determination was preliminary and nonbinding, and because of that it declined to specify what rule Giuliani, who contested the election results as former President Donald Trump’s lawyer, had most likely violated. It will release a final decision in several weeks, after hearing recommendations related to what discipline Giuliani should receive, assuming the preliminary finding stands.

Hamilton “Phil” Fox, of the Washington, D.C., Office of Disciplinary Counsel, called for the harshest penalty for Giuliani, disbarment, after the panel announced its tentative finding, saying Giuliani tried to undermine the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.

“Any lawyer that engages in this kind of misconduct, harming the country as this has done, has at least got to realize that his or her law license is at risk,” Fox said.

At the conclusion of the proceedings, Giuliani expressed outrage toward the panel for allowing Fox to make what he characterized as a "personal attack." Airing a series of grievances, Giuliani defended his attempts to contest the 2020 election results, which he continues to claim he had reason to believe were rigged.

Giuliani’s lawyer, John Leventhal, argued for a minor disciplinary measure, like a letter of reprimand or a private admonition, arguing that the disciplinary counsel’s arguments rely heavily on politics.

“We feel that the least serious discipline should be imposed. Otherwise you’re going to chill effective advocacy in the future,” Leventhal said.

The panel is set to issue a final report with its recommendations to the D.C. Bar’s Board on Professional Responsibility, which will decide whether to accept the recommendation after both sides file additional briefs. The Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals will make the final determination on any disciplinary action.

The recommendation was made after Giuliani defended his work on a lawsuit that sought to toss the 2020 election results in the state at a hearing before a committee of the bar’s Board on Professional Responsibility last week. A judge rejected the lawsuit, and a federal appeals court refused to allow the campaign to file a revised complaint.

At the hearing before the Washington panel, Fox told it that Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and U.S. attorney in Manhattan, “weaponized his law license to bring a frivolous action in an attempt to undermine the Constitution.”

Leventhal argued that Giuliani shouldn’t face charges because the judge in the Pennsylvania case didn’t accept and never considered the sole version of the complaint Giuliani signed.

A New York appeals court suspended Giuliani’s law license last year, saying he made “demonstrably false and misleading” statements about the 2020 election while serving as Trump’s lawyer. Giuliani’s Washington law license was suspended after the New York decision.