I mentioned yesterday that some lawyers at the firms that are helping the Republican Party’s all-out war on American democracy are beginning to worry that it’s making them look bad:
Some senior lawyers at Jones Day, one of the country’s largest law firms, are worried that it is advancing arguments that lack evidence and may be helping Mr. Trump and his allies undermine the integrity of American elections, according to interviews with nine partners and associates, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs.
At another large firm, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, based in Columbus, Ohio, lawyers have held internal meetings to voice similar concerns about their firm’s election-related work for Mr. Trump and the Republican Party, according to people at the firm. At least one lawyer quit in protest.
Already, the two firms have filed at least four lawsuits challenging aspects of the election in Pennsylvania. The cases are pending.
The latest salvo came on Monday evening, when the Trump campaign filed a suit in federal court in Pennsylvania against the Pennsylvania secretary of state and a number of county election boards. The suit — filed by lawyers at Porter Wright — alleged that there were “irregularities” in voting across the state.
In recent days, two Jones Day lawyers said they had faced heckling from friends and others on social media about working at a firm that is supporting Mr. Trump’s efforts.
A lawyer in Jones Day’s Washington office felt that the firm risked hurting itself by taking on work that undermined the rule of law. “To me, it seems extremely shortsighted,” the lawyer said.
This year, Jones Day has received more than $4 million in fees from Mr. Trump, political groups supporting him and the Republican National Committee, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission records.
If you are an a senior position at any of these firms, you have two options: resign and explain exactly why in a public statement, or it fully hangs on you.
The key text here is Leah Litman’s brilliant recent article about how the culture of the legal profession, for from formally or informally sanctioning lawyers who are active collaborators with authoritarianism, actively works to protect them and insulate them from accountability:
Of course, there is something painful and unpleasant about making life uncomfortable for someone familiar, especially a professional colleague. There is also something deeply uncomfortable about calling out someone you know for immoral conduct. But our constitutional order depends on people doing just that. Scholars have identified professional networks as important guardians of norms: Government officials and elites abide by norms in part because they fear approbation or repudiation by their professional and social networks if they do not. Yet those networks are now sending the signal that their members have nothing to fear at all—because they will never be held accountable for participating in cruel and destructive policies.
Lawyers bringing lawsuits they know to be wholly without merit designed to undermine American democracy should face formal sanctions up to and including disbarment. (Contrary to the current dominant argument of Republican discourse echoed uncritically in too many media outlets, there is no “right” to bring knowingly frivolous legal claims.) Alas, it is unlikely that they will face even informal network sanctions. No amount of contrary evidence can seem to shake the presumption that elite Republican goons with fancy law degrees are somehow different than the ones who don’t.