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Giuliani suspended from practicing law in New York over bogus election fraud claims

"We conclude that respondent’s conduct immediately threatens the public interest and warrants interim suspension from the practice of law, pending further proceedings," the state appeals court wrote.

A New York appellate court on Thursday suspended Rudy Giuliani's law license after finding he made "demonstrably false and misleading" statements about last year's election while serving as former President Donald Trump's attorney.

In a 33-page decision, the court panel wrote: "We conclude that there is uncontroverted evidence that respondent communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020."

"These false statements were made to improperly bolster respondent’s narrative that due to widespread voter fraud, victory in the 2020 United States presidential election was stolen from his client," the ruling continued. "We conclude that respondent’s conduct immediately threatens the public interest and warrants interim suspension from the practice of law, pending further proceedings before the Attorney Grievance Committee."

Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney and mayor of New York, can appeal the decision but can’t practice law at this time in the state. In a statement, his attorneys expressed disappointment with the ruling, which they pointed out took place before Giuliani could present his case in a hearing.

"This is unprecedented as we believe that our client does not pose a present danger to the public interest," Giuliani attorneys John Leventhal and Barry Kamins said. "We believe that once the issues are fully explored at a hearing Mr. Giuliani will be reinstated as a valued member of the legal profession that he has served so well in his many capacities for so many years."

Speaking to reporters outside his Manhattan home, Giuliani called the ruling "ridiculous."

"How can they say I lied without a hearing?" he said. "They haven’t questioned me."

The panel examined several comments made by Giuliani and the defenses he offered of them to the court, and rejected Giuliani's argument that the investigation violated his First Amendment speech protections.

"This disciplinary proceeding concerns the professional restrictions imposed on respondent as an attorney to not knowingly misrepresent facts and make false statements in connection with his representation of a client," the decision sates. "It is long recognized that 'speech by an attorney is subject to greater regulation than speech by others.'"

The panel also reviewed false claims Giuliani made about the number of mail-in ballots requested in Pennsylvania. Giuliani's defense was that he did not know those assertions were false and that a member of his "team" had gotten incorrect data from the state's website.

But the court said: "There is simply no proof to support this explanation."

"For instance, there is no affidavit from this supposed team member who is not identified by name or otherwise, nor is there any copy of the web page that purportedly listed the allegedly incorrect data," the ruling said. "In fact, the only proof in this record is the official data on the Pennsylvania open data portal correctly listing the ballots requested as 3.08 million."

The panel also pointed to unfounded claims he made about the number of undocumented noncitizens having voted in Arizona, which Giuliani stated was in the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands on different occasions after the election.

"On their face, these numerical claims are so wildly divergent and irreconcilable, that they all cannot be true at the same time," the ruling said. "Some of the wild divergences were even stated by respondent in the very same sentence."

The panel also cited comments Giuliani made in a Pennsylvania court last year. During that appearance, Giuliani said, "I don’t know what’s more serious than being denied your right to vote in a democracy."

"We agree," the panel wrote. "It is the very reason why espousing false factual information to large segments of the public as a means of discrediting the rights of legitimate voters is so immediately harmful to it and warrants interim suspension from the practice of law."

In his defense, Giuliani contended this year that there was no reason for the panel to take action against him because the election fight is over, and "he has and will continue to exercise personal discipline to forbear from discussing these matters in public anymore."

The judges noted he's continued making false claims since then.

Giuliani was at the forefront of Trump's efforts to overturn the election, traveling across the country to argue the spurious claims of fraud before state lawmakers, courts and the public.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, Trump expressed surprise at the decision and called Giuliani "the Eliot Ness of his generation," a nearly century-old reference to the prohibition agent who sought to arrest mobsters.

In April, federal agents executed search warrants on Giuliani's Manhattan apartment and office to seize electronic devices as part of an investigation into his dealings in Ukraine.

After the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the New York State Bar Association opened an inquiry into whether to remove Giuliani from its ranks. Following the suspension, the group announced it was "immediately removing Rudy Giuliani as a member of our association."

"Nothing means more to us than the integrity of the profession and we applaud the work of the attorney disciplinary committee in safeguarding the public," the group's president, T. Andrew Brown, said in a statement, adding that "it is equally important that we recognize the ongoing legal process and Rudy Giuliani’s right to defend himself."

"We will await the completion of the disciplinary process before taking further action,” Brown said.

New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat who filed the initial complaint, said he was happy with the ruling.

"The profession of law is a sacred and noble one," he said. "And there can be no room in the profession for those who seek to undermine and undo the rule of law as Rudy Giuliani has so flagrantly done.”

The suspension was signed by a panel of five judges from the Appellate Division, New York's second highest-court. One judge, Judith Gische, has some history with Giuliani — she presided over the then-mayor's 2002 divorce from Donna Hanover, his second wife.

Dareh Gregorian, Tom Winter and Dan Mangan, CNBC contributed.