A lawyer for Donald Trump who repeatedly took to national media to amplify the former president’s baseless claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election has been censured after admitting to making misleading statements.
Jenna Ellis formally acknowledged that she made “public misrepresentations in November and December 2020 in her capacity as counsel for the then-President’s reelection campaign and as personal counsel to the then-President, while also advertising her status as a lawyer,” according to a ruling Wednesday from Colorado’s Presiding Disciplinary Judge Bryon M. Large.
In his opinion approving Ellis’ stipulation to discipline, Large said that Ellis played a major role in the chaos and division that followed the 2020 election. While serving as a senior legal advisor to Trump and as counsel for his reelection campaign, she “repeatedly made misrepresentations on national television and on Twitter, undermining the American public’s confidence in the 2020 presidential election. The parties stipulate that Respondent’s misconduct warrants public censure[.]”
According to the ruling, Ellis acknowledges that she made 10 separate misrepresentations or false statements
Those misrepresentations included promises of evidence of voter intimidation and voter fraud, assertions that the election was probably “stolen” from Trump, and insistence that Trump won in a “landslide.”
According to the ruling:
On November 20, 2020, Respondent appeared on Mornings with Maria on Fox Business and stated: “We have affidavits from witnesses, we have voter intimidation, we have the ballots that were manipulated, we have all kinds of statistics that show that this was a coordinated effort in all of these states to transfer votes either from Trump to Biden, to manipulate the ballots, to count them in secret . . .”
On November 20, 2020, Respondent appeared on Spicer & Co. and stated, “with all those states [Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia] combined we know that the election was stolen from President Trump and we can prove that.”
On November 21, 2020, Respondent stated on Twitter under her handle @JennaEllisEsq., ” . . . SECOND, we will present testimonial and other evidence IN COURT to show how this election was STOLEN!”
On November 23, 2020, Respondent appeared on The Ari Melber Show on MSNBC and stated, “The election was stolen and Trump won by a landslide.”
On November 30, 2020, Respondent appeared on Mornings with Maria on Fox Business and stated, “President Trump is right that there was widespread fraud in this election, we have at least six states that were corrupted, if not more, through their voting systems. . . We know that President Trump won in a landslide.” She also stated, “The outcome of this election is actually fraudulent it’s wrong, and we understand than when we subtract all the illegal ballots, you can see that President Trump actually won in a landslide.”
On December 5, 2020, Respondent appeared on Justice with Judge Jeanine on Fox News and stated, “We have over 500,000 votes [in Arizona] that were cast illegally . . .”
Ellis, who is licensed to practice law in Colorado, admitted that in making these statements, she violated Rule 8.4(c) of that state’s Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC), which provides that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation[.]”
Ellis, for her part, took to Twitter to insist that any false statements she may have made were unintentional.
“I would NEVER lie,” she wrote. “Lying requires INTENTIONALLY making a false statement.”
“I never did that, nor did I stipulate to or admit that,” Ellis continues. “As has become sadly typical, the opposition-controlled media is intentionally twisting the truth, conflating the full RPC standard with the actual stipulation. The standard reads, ‘dishonesty, fraud, deceit, OR misrepresentation.””
Ellis’s own agreement to the stipulation, however, indicates otherwise. Judge Large’s ruling is clear that both Ellis and the state were relying on the American Bar Association’s standard for imposing sanctions for misconduct, which provides that “[public censure] is generally appropriate when a lawyer knowingly engages in any [noncriminal] conduct that involves dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation and that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law.”
Large acknowledged that this situation is unique, noting that he is “keenly aware that [he] does not have the benefit of factually analogous cases imposing discipline.” He also recognized that the parties had considered the First Amendment implications before deciding that a public censure of Ellis was ultimately the right move.
Large noted that Ellis was not Trump’s attorney of record for the post-election cases, but she was part of the legal team challenging the results, and her misrepresentations had a serious impact.
“The parties agree that Respondent, through her conduct, undermined the American public’s confidence in the presidential election, violating her duty of candor to the public,” the judge wrote. “[T]he parties agree that two aggravators apply — Respondent had a selfish motive and she engaged in a pattern of misconduct — while one factor, her lack of prior discipline, mitigates her misconduct.”
“The Court ORDERS that JENNA LYNN ELLIS, attorney registration number 44026, is PUBLICLY CENSURED, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY,” wrote separately in an order of public censure.
Lawyers who pursued Trump’s challenges to the 2020 election have not fared particularly well before ethics tribunals to date. Rudy Giuliani is facing potential disbarment, so-called “coup memo” author John Eastman has been hit with disciplinary charges by the California Bar, and Sidney Powell has been ordered to pay sanctions for a Michigan election lawsuit deemed “meritless.” Fox News, which hosted Ellis and others pushing the election fraud theory, is currently facing a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems..
Law&Crime reached out to Ellis’s lawyer of record, Michael Melito, as well as attorneys for the state of Colorado. Neither responded in time for publication.
Ellis, however, posted a statement on Twitter on behalf of herself and her lawyer.
“To every news outlet that has reached out, will reach out, or pretended to reach out to me or my lawyers: You may use the following statements[,]” she wrote, adding on behalf of Melito: “My client remains a practicing attorney in good standing in the State of Colorado. In a very heated political climate, we secured that correct outcome.”
“This was politically motivated from the start from Democrats and Never Trumpers,” she added on her own behalf. “They ultimately failed to destroy me and failed in their attempt to deprive me of my bar license. I’m glad to have this behind me and remain in good standing in the State of Colorado.”
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