Lawyer loses challenge to judge's ethics referral after failed election lawsuit

Signage is seen at the entrance of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Washington, D.C.
Signage is seen at the entrance of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Washington, D.C., U.S. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Court says Erick Kaardal's challenge premature
  • Kaardal's lawsuit for Wisconsin and other voters sought to stop Pence from counting electoral votes
  • D.C. judge dismissed "baseless" lawsuit

(Reuters) - A Minnesota lawyer on Tuesday lost his bid in a U.S. appeals court to block an attorney ethics inquiry spurred by a federal judge who quickly dismissed his "baseless" and "sweeping" lawsuit attacking the 2020 election.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said attorney Erick Kaardal, a litigator at Minneapolis-based law firm Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, acted too early to contest the judge's referral of him to the Washington, D.C., federal court's grievance committee. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg's referral did not suggest whether any discipline should be imposed.

The appeals court called the referral "no different from a run-of-the-mill agency order initiating an administrative investigation." D.C. Circuit Judge David Tatel, writing for the unanimous panel, said such an agency order "initiating enforcement proceedings is nonreviewable."

Kaardal declined to comment on Tuesday. His lawyer, Channing Shor of Eccleston & Wolf, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Some lawyers in other cases that contested the 2020 presidential election also have faced ethics questions. A U.S. appeals court last month rejected an attempt from Sidney Powell and other lawyers to pause a trial judge's sanctions order.

The D.C. Circuit panel, which included Circuit Judges Ketanji Brown Jackson and Gregory Katsas, expressed some skepticism of Kaardal's claims at a hearing in December. Jackson, since nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, did not participate in Tuesday's opinion, a common practice for pending nominees.

Kaardal was counsel to the Wisconsin Voters Alliance and other plaintiffs suing then-Vice President Mike Pence to stop him from counting electoral votes that showed Joe Biden had won the race for the White House. Boasberg denied a request to enjoin Pence.

"To call the underlying action in this case ambitious would be an understatement," Tatel wrote in Tuesday's ruling.

The D.C. Circuit's order said "a referral to the committee on grievances neither determines whether an attorney will receive discipline nor what form that discipline may take."

Kaardal still will have a chance to contest any adverse decision from the grievance committee, the court said.

The case is Wisconsin Voters Alliance v. Harris, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, No. 21-5056.

For Erick Kaardal and Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson: Channing Shor and Justin Flint of Eccleston & Wolf

For amicus curiae: Matthew Etchemendy and Jeremy Marwell of Vinson & Elkins

Read more:

Texas regulators seek punishment for pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell

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

Lawyer who sued Pence faces dubious D.C. Circuit panel on ethics matter

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