Q&A: Battling election conspiracies was 'fun' for David Fink. He hopes it's over now

(Reuters) - Even though his work as a high-stakes civil litigator often unfolds in open court, having thousands of people watch his arguments on YouTube earlier this year was a first for Detroit-based David Fink.

Spearheading a push for sanctions against a group of lawyers who tried to overturn Democratic U.S. President Joe Biden's Michigan election victory over Republican Donald Trump brought Fink into the public eye – including national TV appearances. And he isn't exactly complaining.

"I have friends who are wonderful doctors, but nobody gets to see what they're doing, and I have friends who are wonderful lawyers, but I've never seen them practice," said Fink, a Democrat and managing partner of commercial law firm Fink Bressack. "Now we've got this odd circumstance where people can see me practice, and that's been fun."

There's more to come. The judge hearing the Michigan case, U.S. District Judge Linda Parker, sanctioned pro-Trump lawyers Sidney Powell, Lin Wood and others in August for filing the election challenge lawsuit, which she called "a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process." Last week Fink's client, the City of Detroit, demanded more than $180,000 in legal fees from the sanctioned lawyers.

Parker ruled that Detroit and the state of Michigan were entitled to the fees after defending their election results against Powell and the others' fraud allegations. The sanctioned attorneys can object to that amount, and some have said they will appeal, Fink said.

Fink talked with Reuters about how the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol affected the case, and whether he expects to see similar litigation in 2024. Attorneys for Powell, Wood and the other sanctioned pro-Trump lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.

The exchange has been edited for clarity and length.

REUTERS: How does it feel to be at the center of a case that has garnered national attention like this? I assume you hadn't appeared on "The Rachel Maddow Show" before.

DAVID FINK: No, I haven't been on "The Rachel Maddow Show" before, and it really was quite an experience. I highly recommend it. But as far as being in the heart of this kind of litigation, in some respects it was very difficult, in other respects it's a dream come true. It's the reason I went to law school. It's the reason that I've been involved in politics for over 40 years. It's the reason that I choose to try to focus my practice on opportunities to actually make the world a better place.

First, it was a great case, because we knew we were doing the right thing. Second, we had this unusual and unexpected opportunity to be in the public eye while we were doing that. We don't do that much of our work in public.

REUTERS: How do you think the attack on the U.S. Capitol affected this case? Because you sought sanctions prior to Jan. 6. But in the weeks and months since then, you've been quite clear about your views on the culpability of these particular attorneys.

FINK: I start from the other side, which is, how did the litigation affect the attack? I am absolutely certain that if it weren't for the validation of insane conspiracy theories that were provided by this litigation, if it were not for that validation, Jan. 6 would not have happened.

(Both Powell and Wood have denied any connection between their election claims and the attack on the Capitol by pro-Trump supporters. Both said they played no role in inciting the rioters – Powell has previously called that "inflammatory, false hogwash" while Wood has described it as "errant nonsense.")

REUTERS: Do you think you'll be seeing election conspiracy claims again in the next presidential election?

FINK: Of course I hope not, and it's exactly that concern that has driven our passion to be sure that the lawyers who brought these cases are sanctioned. We have some wonderful, experienced, intelligent, ethical lawyers who represent the Republican Party and Republican candidates. Not one of them filed these ridiculous lawsuits, and of the nine lawyers who filed and participated in the lawsuit in front of Judge Parker, not one of them understood Michigan election law. They're paying a price and the price they pay, God willing, will stop this nonsense in 2024.

(Powell asserted during a July court hearing she had carefully vetted her election fraud claims before suing, and that the only way to test them would have been at trial or a hearing on evidence gathered. Her co-counsel repeatedly called for such an evidentiary hearing.)

REUTERS: How has this case affected your practice? Has it been good for business?

FINK: It's hard to know what inspires somebody to call you. Nobody calls and says, "I saw you on Rachel Maddow, so I want to retain you." But you become top of mind. I suspect this makes it a little more likely to send work to us. We're not the kind of practice, though, that is turning over large volume. We handle a small number of high-stakes cases, and our practice is doing very well.

Read more:

Pro-Trump lawyers face $200,000 legal bill for 'frivolous' election case

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

Judge eyes sanctions on pro-Trump lawyers who claimed voter fraud

In sanctions push, Detroit says Powell, Wood have blood on their hands

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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.