(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Sweat runs down the face of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, personal attorney to U.S. President Donald Trump, as he speaks about the 2020 U.S. presidential election results during a news conference at Republican National Committee he
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) -Rudy Giuliani’s New York law license was suspended on Thursday, after a state appeals court found he had lied in arguing that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from his client, former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Giuliani, 77, a former U.S. Attorney in Manhattan and New York City mayor, was punished for making “demonstrably false and misleading” statements that widespread voter fraud undermined the election, which Democrat Joe Biden won.
Citing the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the Appellate Division said Giuliani’s eagerness to trumpet false claims of a rigged election could erode public confidence in the election process, a hallmark of American democracy, and the legal profession.
“This country is being torn apart by continued attacks on the legitimacy of the 2020 election and of our current president, Joseph R. Biden,” the court said.
“Where, as here, the false statements are being made by (Giuliani), acting with the authority of being an attorney, and using his large megaphone, the harm is magnified.”
The court also said that the suspension, which takes effect immediately, could become permanent.
Giuliani could not immediately be reached for comment.
John Leventhal and Barry Kamins, two lawyers for Giuliani, said they were disappointed with the decision.
“Our client does not pose a present danger to the public interest,” they said in a joint statement. “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.”
Thursday’s court decision adds to the legal problems for Giuliani who as New York City mayor won wide praise for his response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Giuliani, a Republican, is defending against a $1.3 billion lawsuit where Dominion Voting Systems accused him of defamation for claiming its machines helped flip votes to Biden from Trump.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are separately examining Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, including whether he violated lobbying laws by acting as an unregistered foreign agent while working as Trump’s lawyer.
Giuliani has denied wrongdoing. Federal agents seized 18 devices, including cellphones and computers, in April 28 raids of Giuliani’s home and office for the Ukraine probe.
The appeals court said Giuliani made numerous false statements about voting in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania, including that hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots or votes had been improperly counted.
It highlighted a Pennsylvania court hearing on Nov. 17 where Giuliani alleged widespread voter fraud, though his formal written complaint on Trump’s behalf made no mention of it.
The court also criticized Giuliani’s unsubstantiated claims of voting by dead people, including the boxing heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, who died in 2011.
“We find that there is evidence of continuing misconduct, the underlying offense is incredibly serious, and the uncontroverted misconduct in itself will likely result in substantial permanent sanctions,” the court said.
Giuliani had unsuccessfully argued that the grievance committee’s investigation into his conduct violated his constitutional right to free speech.
Still, the suspension does not act as a muzzle on Giuliani’s ability to speak publicly.
That contrasts with Twitter’s permanent ban and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB)’s two-year suspension of Trump from their respective platforms.
Brian Faughnan, a Tennessee lawyer specializing in attorney disciplinary proceedings, said suspensions such as Giuliani’s are often reserved for lawyers who commit crimes or stole client money.
Giuliani received his law license in 1969.
He began representing Trump in April 2018 as federal Special Counsel Robert Mueller was probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.