NY Bar Association: We may expel Giuliani for "trial by combat" remark at rally

As I mentioned earlier and on Thursday, putting a criminal case for incitement against Rudy Giuliani might be possible, but it would still be very tough to clear the Brandenburg standard. That doesn’t mean that the president’s chief personal attorney for election matters will escape all legal consequences, however. The New York Bar Association announced today that they have begun an investigation into Giuliani’s remarks and might expel him as a member as a consequence:

Citing his role in the “violent uprising” that occurred last week at the Capitol, the New York State Bar Association, the country’s largest trade organization for lawyers, announced Monday that it had begun investigating President Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, which could lead to his removal from the group.

In a prepared statement, Scott M. Karson, the association’s president, said that his decision to begin the inquiry was prompted by hundreds of complaints the group had received about Mr. Giuliani’s central role in Mr. Trump’s attempts to overthrow the results of the election. On Wednesday, Mr. Giuliani addressed a crowd of Mr. Trump’s supporters, repeating Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud then appearing to urge people toward violence. After hearing Mr. Giuliani and the president speak, members of the crowd marched to the Capitol and an angry mob ransacked the building.

“If we’re wrong, we will be made fools of, but if we’re right a lot of them will go to jail,” Mr. Giuliani said. “Let’s have trial by combat.”

Bear in mind that this is not the same thing as being disbarred. That requires an entirely different process, but the reputational damage would still be significant:

The bar association has no power to strip Mr. Giuliani of his law license. But should the highly unusual investigation by his peers lead to his removal from the group, it would be a dark stain on a career that has spanned more than 40 years in the law. A spokeswoman for the group said that it had not removed someone who had not already been disbarred since 1904.

It might be even more significant if Giuliani made his living as a lawyer these days. His main business is consulting and investigation rather than litigation. Giuliani came out of retirement to head up Trump’s election challenges, appearing as counsel in court for the first time in almost three decades for the Pennsylvania case. In that trial, Giuliani famously conceded that the campaign was not alleging fraud, despite having the forum for putting forward such evidence. It wouldn’t be the last time that Team Trump lawyers backed away from arguing fraud in court when given the opportunity, either.  Forget “trial by combat” — at times Giuliani and his team didn’t appear to want a trial by trial.

The NYSBA says they will conduct a review, but it does appear they have a pretty good idea what they will conclude at the end of it:

“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 association said in its statement. “Their subsequent attack on the Capitol was nothing short of an attempted coup, intended to prevent the peaceful transition of power.”

As part of the inquiry, Giuliani will have the opportunity to explain his actions if he chooses. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“This decision is historic for NYSBA, and we have not made it lightly,” the group said. “We cannot stand idly by and allow those intent on rending the fabric of our democracy to go unchecked.”

At 78 and largely retired from the practice of law, an expulsion will not have much effect on Giuliani. However, it will be yet another marker of the disturbing end to his public-service career.