A prominent New York lawyers group opened an investigation to explore removing Rudy Giuliani from its membership over his role in the Washington protest that turned into a violent raid on the U.S. Capitol.
The New York State Bar Association announced the probe on Monday. The group does not control admission to practice law in the state, which falls under the authority of the courts. But the NYSBA, along with the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, are large groups that speak for the state’s legal community.
New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, the chairman of the state senate’s judiciary committee, said on Monday he would file a complaint with the courts seeking Giuliani’s formal disbarment.
The former New York mayor addressed the pro-Trump crowd before it marched towards the Capitol, telling them there was plentiful evidence that the election had been stolen from the president and proposing the contest be decided through “trial by combat.”
Giuliani didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
The City Bar on Monday called for President Donald Trump’s removal under the U.S. Constitution’s 25th Amendment, citing both his instigation of the Capitol riot and his actions pressing Georgia election officials to “find” votes overturning President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state.
Hoylman blasted Giuliani’s conduct during a judiciary committee meeting on Monday, saying the lawyer was “at the heart” of last week’s violent events in Washington. The state senator said the complaint he planned to file asking the New York court system to consider revoking Giuliani’s law license was justified by the former mayor’s “rampant and egregious violations of the rules of professional conduct related to his part in a scheme to unlawfully overturn the results of a free and fair election, and his complicity in inflaming a violent coup attempt.”
Admission to practice law in New York is controlled by the courts’ discipline and grievance committees, which can recommend punishments including censure, suspension or disbarment for violations of professional conduct rules.
Though the professional conduct rules of many states contain language barring lawyers from undermining confidence in the law, the vast majority of disciplinary actions stem from the misconduct of lawyers in court cases or in client relationships. Also, any lawyer convicted of a felony or crime of dishonesty is automatically disbarred.
The NYSBA said Monday it had not since 1904 considered removing a member who had not previously been disbarred, but that it had received numerous complaints about Giuliani’s comments to a large group of Trump supporters encouraging them to fight against a vast election fraud conspiracy that has been repeatedly debunked. The group said its by-laws bar members from encouraging overthrow of the government.
As a former New York mayor, chief federal prosecutor and law firm partner, Giuliani would have once been among the group’s most prominent members. But his reputation has taken a big hit since he became closely tied to Trump.
“Mr. Giuliani’s words quite clearly were intended to encourage Trump supporters unhappy with the election’s outcome to take matters into their own hands,” the group said in the statement. “Their subsequent attack on the Capitol was nothing short of an attempted coup, intended to prevent the peaceful transition of power.”
Giuliani has also faced criticism for his conduct in the underlying lawsuits in which Trump sought to overturn his election loss. Giuliani publicly insisted the president had been the victim of election fraud, while declining to actually allege fraud in court. His critics accused him of using the courts to give credibility to the unfounded conspiracy.