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  • Writer's pictureMario Nicolais

Colorado should disbar Jenna Ellis and send a message

Jenna Ellis is again the subject of a disciplinary request before the Colorado Supreme Court. Unlike earlier this year, she is not likely to walk away with her law license this time.

That is the least the judicial system can do to protect itself.

Ellis and others surrounding former President Donald Trump have made a practice of using lies, mistruths and attacks to undermine democratic institutions. That pattern has repeated with rapidly increasing frequency as federal indictments, state prosecutions and civil lawsuits draw closer.

Compounding the problem is Trump’s third run for president. 

The complaint against Ellis stems from the lies she helped to spread in Georgia after the 2020 election. While she was previously censured for “undermining the American public’s confidence in the 2020 presidential election” via Twitter posts and media appearances, her felony criminal plea involved lies meant to influence the Georgia state Senate. 

That led the States United Democracy Center and the Lawyers Defending American Democracy to co-sign an eight-page letter (with over 100 pages of exhibits) asking the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel to suspend and disbar her. Specifically, they cite a standard of conduct that requires disbarment when “(a) a lawyer engages in serious criminal conduct, a necessary element of which includes intentional interference with the administration of justice, false swearing, misrepresentation, fraud, extortion, misappropriation, or theft” or “(b) a lawyer engages in any other intentional conduit involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation that seriously adversely reflects on the lawyers fitness to practice.”

Honestly, Ellis and her pals could start up a law firm called Dishonesty, Fraud, Deceit, & Misrepresentation, LLC. 

Elllis repeated the election lies to aid Rudy Giuliani in his campaign to undermine and degrade the electoral process, and the peaceful transition of power, on behalf of their mutual master, Trump. Now it seems their sights might be set even higher. Pillars of democracy, starting with the judicial system itself, are squarely within their crosshairs.

Trump has repeatedly attacked prosecutors, judges and even clerks over the past several months. That has led to multiple gag orders imposed on him by judges and recently upheld in courts of appeal. And yet, he proceeds.

This should be a fair warning for any member of the judiciary. Trump is testing the limits to which he can bully his way past court proceedings. So far it appears to be little more than a nuisance. Trump understands that if he can delay proceedings long enough, he can make most of the federal charges disappear. He has no qualms about the independence of the Department of Justice and, if he wins the presidency, he will assuredly direct the charges to be dropped.

While that doesn’t settle the civil trial in New York or the Georgia criminal trial under its state law, he has gone to the same playbook. Obfuscate, attack, undermine and amass an army willing to believe it all. 

It brings to mind President Andrew Jackson’s alleged retort when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a manner he opposed, “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.”

Giuliani has taken a similar tack, though his court cases are more immediate and he lacks the imprimatur of a presidential candidate. Just Friday, a jury ordered him to pay election workers he defamed $148 million. He did not take the stand to testify in that trial, presumably because anything he said could have been used against him in criminal proceedings. However, civil juries, unlike criminal juries, can draw a negative inference from such a refusal.

But true to form, Giuliani ignored the court’s order to provide financial information during the discovery process. Who knows how much those election workers will actually get?

And that is the problem with what Trump, Giuliani and Ellis began over three years ago. They have chipped away at the rule of law. If returned to power, Trump will no doubt take a sledgehammer to it.

Of course, disbarring Ellis will not slow this momentum much. For one, she has been an outspoken Trump critic throughout the past year and her plea bargain requires her to cooperate in the prosecution against him (personally, it was very odd for me to see the attorney who represented her in that plea sit across from me and attempt to help Trump during the Fourteenth Amendment litigation I helped bring).

It also will not strip her of the significant amount of money she raked in after working for Trump increased her profile substantially. Shoot, she would probably still teach undergraduate “constitutional law” at Colorado Christian University after a disbarment.

But it would at least strike one blow for the judicial system.

Disbarring Ellis would at the very least be a symbolic act to declare that the judiciary will not sit idly by and let democracy be undermined and destroyed by lies. Under constant assault, courts need to hold these liars accountable. In Colorado, they can start with Jenna Ellis.

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