On Thursday, August 24, 2023, The Detroit News reported that Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel expressed her criticism towards the Attorney Grievance Commission for what she perceived as a delay in taking action on a complaint she filed against attorneys who sought to overturn the 2020 election results.
Nessel, along with Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, lodged a complaint against attorneys Greg Rohl, Scott Hagerstrom, and Stefanie Lambert Junttila, accusing them of violating ethical standards in a lawsuit called King v. Benson.
Taking to Twitter, Nessel highlighted the duration of the delay, emphasizing that 568 days had passed since the complaint was filed. She further argued that the State Bar of Michigan should offer partial refunds to lawyers who contribute to the financing of the Attorney Grievance Commission’s investigations through their bar dues. Nessel expressed concern that without sufficient consequences, these same lawyers could continue undermining democracy with frivolous and dangerous lawsuits.
In response, the Attorney Grievance Commission, which operates as a non-partisan office, neither confirmed nor denied the receipt of complaints against the individuals mentioned by Nessel. Grievance Administrator Michael Goetz defended the commission’s approach, stating that they prioritize thoroughness over rushing to judgment. He explained that the duration of investigations can vary depending on the complexity of each case, ranging from a few months to up to three years.
The commission, guided by rules set by the Michigan Supreme Court, typically maintains secrecy regarding the existence of complaints or ongoing investigations unless an official complaint is forwarded to the state’s Attorney Discipline Board. The board then evaluates the case compiled by the commission to determine the appropriate disciplinary measures for the accused lawyers. If no action is taken or if attorneys are cautioned or admonished, the public remains unaware of the initial complaint or the investigation itself.
Previously, in February 2021, Nessel, Whitmer, and Benson filed a similar complaint with the commission, seeking the disbarment and loss of law practice privileges for Rohl, Hagerstrom, and Lambert Junttila. A parallel complaint was also lodged against attorney Sidney Powell in Texas. Powell faced legal action from the state bar’s disciplinary arm for filing “frivolous” lawsuits challenging the 2020 election results.
It is worth noting that Republican attorney general candidate Matthew DePerno revealed earlier this year that he was under investigation by the Attorney Grievance Commission for his handling of election litigation in Antrim County. Lambert Junttila, one of the accused attorneys, was involved in other election-related litigation as recently as June, representing Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf in a lawsuit against Nessel, Benson, and the Michigan State Police.
In an ongoing legal development, Nessel’s office recently requested the Michigan Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council to appoint a special prosecutor to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against DePerno, Leaf, Lambert, and six others. These charges relate to an alleged “conspiracy” to gain improper access to voting machines.
In the original complaint against the King v. Benson lawyers, Nessel asserted that the attorneys had engaged in a lawsuit based on falsehoods, attempting to disenfranchise Michigan voters and erode public faith in the legitimacy of the presidential election. President Joe Biden had won Michigan by 154,000 votes in November 2020, but supporters of former President Donald Trump had questioned the results with unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, which were dismissed by multiple court decisions, numerous audits, and a Michigan Senate Oversight Committee investigation.
The attorneys involved in the King v. Benson lawsuit, including Powell, Lambert Junttila, Rohl, and Hagerstrom, faced sanctions in December when U.S. District Judge Linda Parker of Michigan’s Eastern District ordered them to pay legal fees totaling $175,250. Judge Parker deemed the lawsuit a “historic and profound abuse of the judicial process” and mandated the completion of 12 hours of continuing legal education in pleading standards and election law. The judge also referred her sanctions decision to the state disciplinary boards, potentially leading to the suspension or disbarment of the attorneys involved.
Source: The Detroit News