Appeals court says Sidney Powell can't dodge non-monetary sanctions

Sidney Powell, an attorney later disavowed by the Trump campaign, participates in a news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani at the Republican National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
  • Powell, other lawyers were sanctioned for pressing frivolous voter fraud claims
  • 6th Circuit said they couldn't bypass a trial judge in seeking to pause part of their punishment

(Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Thursday blocked an attempt by Sidney Powell and other lawyers to evade non-monetary sanctions imposed on them after they sued to overturn President Joe Biden's 2020 election victory in Michigan.

Powell and the others had asked the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to stay the sanctions, which U.S. District Judge Linda Parker imposed on them last year.

But on Thursday, one day before Parker's Feb. 25 deadline for them to satisfy the sanctions order by completing legal and ethical training, the 6th Circuit said the lawyers should have taken their request to Parker first when they had ample time to do so.

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"They waited more than two months to seek a stay, knowing the February 25 deadline was imminent," the 6th Circuit said.

Powell and New York attorney Howard Kleinhendler did not respond to a request for comment. They are representing themselves and attorneys Scott Hagerstrom, Julia Haller, Brandon Johnson and Gregory Rohl, who were also sanctioned.

Parker, a federal judge in Detroit, ordered Powell and the others to pay a $175,000 penalty for pushing a "frivolous" lawsuit claiming election fraud that she said represented "a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process."

The monetary sanctions were stayed until appeals were resolved, but Parker ordered Powell and the other lawyers to complete 12 hours of continuing legal education classes by Feb. 25.

Parker also formally requested state disciplinary bodies investigate whether the lawyers should have their law licenses revoked.

Powell and the others sought to stop those referrals, but the 6th Circuit on Thursday said it was too late: "The district court clerk has already referred the matter to the attorneys' relevant disciplinary authorities."

Attorneys representing the city of Detroit, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson opposed Powell and her co-defendants' request for a stay.

David Fink of Fink Bressack, who is representing Detroit, declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Michigan attorney general, which is representing Whitmer and Benson, said in a statement that "the sanctioned attorneys have had six months to comply with Judge Parker's order."

The case is Timothy King, et al. v. Gretchen Whitmer, et al., 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, No. 21-1786.

For Sidney Powell, Gregory Rohl, Brandon Johnson, Howard Kleinhendler, Julia Haller and Scott Hagerstrom: Sidney Powell and Howard Kleinhendler

For Detroit: David Fink and Nathan Fink of Fink Bressack

For Gretchen Whitmer and Jocelyn Benson: Heather Meingast and Erik Gill, of the Michigan attorney general's office

Read More:

Detroit slams Sidney Powell's move to dodge CLE-hour sanctions

Pro-Trump lawyers ordered to pay $175,000 for 'frivolous' election lawsuit

'Profound abuse': Judge disciplines pro-Trump lawyers over election lawsuit

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.