The latest example is a federal judge in Colorado who sanctioned two lawyers for “echoing and repeating election-rigging conspiracy theories” and noted that those allegations “are extraordinarily serious, and if accepted as true by large numbers of people, are the stuff of which violent insurrections are made.” This decision is important in its own right. It could also have broader implications for those who continue to baselessly spread the “big lie” — including former President Donald Trump himself.
In this particular matter, the two attorneys filed the lawsuit on behalf of all registered voters in the United States, falsely claiming that officials in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin had engaged in a “vast conspiracy” with tech companies to interfere with the election. The plaintiffs asked a federal court in Colorado to declare the “the actions of multiple state legislatures, municipalities and state courts in the conduct of the 2020 election” as “legal nullities,” and sought a total of $160 billion in damages. The court, like so many others around the country dealing with similar cases, dismissed the suit on numerous grounds and rejected these bizarre claims of election fraud.
Here’s why this case is so important: it reminds us that democracy is not defenseless. The body politic has an immune system, and it is the rule of law. The legal system will fight back against baseless claims of election fraud, and our democracy will not be undermined without a serious fight. As Neureiter makes clear, a law license comes with many privileges, but along with that privilege comes responsibility, specifically “the sworn obligation of every lawyer … not to abuse that privilege by making factual allegations without first conducting a reasonable inquiry into the validity of those allegations.” And that responsibility, we would argue, is only heightened when making allegations that strike at the very heart of our democracy.
The decision matters not just for the two attorneys in Colorado, who will hopefully think twice before filing another suit without independently investigating the facts. It is also sends an important message to other attorneys and their clients, along with the public at-large. As the court explained, “Sanctions are required to deter the filing of frivolous, politically motivated lawsuits such as this in the future.”
Attorneys will continue to be held accountable by the rule of the law — along with the rest of the legal profession, but what about the clients who inspired them and sought their services? Former President Donald Trump repeated lies that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen,” which led to the deadly attack against the United States Capitol on January 6. He incited his followers in the months preceding January 6– and at the infamous rally earlier that very day.
There seems to be no shame among those who continue to purvey the election lie — even at the risk of court punishment. This week’s Colorado decision is the latest step in imposing consequences upon those who undermine our democracy. The justice system must remain committed to making sure they are not allowed to continue. From what we’ve seen, they certainly won’t stop on their own. Fortunately, the rule of law is proving to be on the side of accountability.