President Donald Trump's lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani talks to journalists outside the White House West Wing July 01, 2020 in Washington, DC. Giuliani did an on-camera interview with One America News Network's Chanel Rion before talking to other journalists about Vice President Joe Biden and the news that Russian intelligence may have paid Taliban operatives to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
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02:51 - Source: CNN
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The New York City Bar Association added its name to the list of groups urging the state court committee that recommends whether to disbar attorneys to investigate complaints against Rudy Giuliani.

In a letter obtained by CNN, the NYC Bar Association said allegations call for a “serious investigation” into Giuliani’s actions, saying he used his position as an attorney who served in senior government positions including Manhattan US Attorney’s office and Associate Attorney General of the United States to “lend credence” to former President Donald Trump’s baseless assertions that the 2020 Presidential Election results were the product of widespread election fraud. Giuliani is not a member of the NYC Bar Association, which is a voluntary organization.

“The complaints against Mr. Giuliani allege serious misconduct. They do so in great detail, and appear to be substantiated by extensive evidence – consisting in large part of Mr. Giuliani’s own statements,” the letter said. “They describe a pattern of misconduct that Mr. Giuliani engaged in both inside and outside the courtroom with the purpose of subverting a Presidential election, culminating in his speech on a podium at the Ellipse in Washington DC on January 6, 2021 when he urged a crowd of angry Trump supporters to engage in ‘trial by combat.’”

In New York, attorney discipline is handled by the court system, and any investigation of Giuliani would be handled by the Attorney Grievance Committee for the First Department in New York, said attorney Ronald Minkoff, who represents attorneys with cases before grievance committees in New York. It can take years for complaints against attorneys to be investigated and lead to action including being disbarred, Minkoff said.

“It’s a very slow process and it’s very secretive,” Minkoff told CNN. “The bar wants it that way – not just the court system but the bar – because they’re very nervous about complaints getting out and damaging somebody.”

Multiple complaints have been sent to the Attorney Grievance Committee alleging Giuliani violated rules of professional conduct for attorneys when he represented Trump’s reelection campaign in a Pennsylvania voter fraud case, and for his statements at the January 6 rally outside of the Capitol that culminated with an insurrection. Several of the complaints have been shared publicly.

The complaints are the most severe calls for sanctions, after the New York State Bar Association, of which Giuliani is a member, said it is holding a hearing to investigate whether or not to revoke his membership, which would not impact his ability to practice law, Susan DeSantis, a spokeswoman for the organization, told CNN in a statement.

Giuliani’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

Giuliani is not currently representing Trump in “any legal matters,” Trump’s senior adviser Jason Miller told CNN in February, adding later in a tweet that Giuliani remains “an ally and a friend.”

The complaints

It is unclear exactly how many complaints have been filed to the Attorney Grievance Committee about Giuliani and if it has opened an investigation into his actions.

“We cannot confirm whether any complaints have been filed with the Attorney Grievance Committee due to the confidential nature of our investigations,” said Angela Christmas, Deputy Chief Attorney for the Attorney Grievance Committee.

But multiple groups, attorneys and politicians have shared the letters they’ve sent publicly.

One complaint, from the Lawyers Defending American Democracy, has been signed by more than 3,000 attorneys, and calls for Giuliani to be “sanctioned immediately” white the committee investigates his conduct.

“As lead counsel for Mr. Trump in all election matters, Mr. Giuliani has spearheaded a nationwide public campaign to convince the public and the courts of massive voter fraud and a stolen presidential election,” the group’s letter from January read. “Mr. Giuliani personally advanced and argued claims in court that were frivolous and had no reasonable purpose other than to fuel the extrajudicial campaign of falsehoods.”

Another complaint, filed by Minkoff on behalf of Michael Miller, a former president of the New York State Bar Association, and other attorneys, points to Giuliani’s distinguished career as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Mayor of New York City as factors that make his conduct “objectionable.”

Others come from lawmakers. Reps. Ted Lieu and Mondair Jones shared their letter to the Grievance Committee in January, who also requested that the committee open an “immediate” investigation into Giuliani.

New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman who is an attorney and chair of the state senate judiciary committee, said he filed a letter to the committee after watching Giuliani’s speech at the rally before a group that ultimately stormed the capitol, saying “there must be consequences for seditious acts.”

The process

The Attorney Grievance Committee is made up of attorneys and state employees who receive complaints about attorneys and can decide to investigate them if they feel it’s warranted, according to a 2019 public report filed by the committee.

The subject of the complaint has the opportunity to respond to allegations, and the Attorney Grievance Committee can subpoena people for additional documents, interview witnesses and question the subject of the investigation under oath, its report said.

The investigations can take months or even years, and when completed, the committee’s staff attorney can recommend giving the attorney a warning, suspending their license temporarily or disbarring them altogether. If disbarred, an attorney can still seek to be reinstated after seven years, the report said.

Ultimately, the final decision on whether or not to sanction an attorney comes after a trial with a “referee,” sometimes a retired judge, who is appointed by the Appellate Court to oversee a trial where both sides can make arguments and present witnesses, and the court gives a final decision.