Complaints target Georgia attorneys who aided Trump’s effort to overturn election

A nonprofit group has asked the State Bar of Georgia to discipline three attorneys for their roles in then-President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Two of the attorneys — William Bradley Carver of Atlanta and Daryl R. Moody of Alpharetta — served as “alternative” Republican electors who cast ballots for Trump after two recounts determined that Democrat Joe Biden narrowly won Georgia. A third — William McCall Calhoun Jr. of Americus — faces federal criminal charges for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Carver and Moody did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. In an email, Calhoun said he did nothing wrong and cited his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The State Bar of Georgia said it has received the complaints but declined to comment further.

A fourth attorney — Cleta D. Mitchell — faces a similar complaint in Washington for her role in the January 2021 phone call in which Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes for him to defeat Biden.

The 65 Project — named for the number of failed lawsuits that sought to overturn the election in various states — filed a total of eight complaints against attorneys in various states on Monday. The group says the attorneys violated professional ethics rules as well as state and federal laws in their zeal to aid Trump’s unsuccessful effort to overturn the election.

Michael Teter, an attorney and managing director of the 65 Project, said future complaints will target attorneys who filed “egregious” lawsuits that sought to overturn Biden’s victory.

“Our concern is that lawyers take an oath to support the Constitution, and they take on the responsibility to be truthful to the courts and the public when they take on representing clients,” Teter told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “If you violate that oath and try to overturn American democracy, you ought to pay a price for that.”

Some attorneys already have paid a price for aiding Trump, who spent weeks following the November 2020 election making false allegations of voting fraud.

Courts in New York and Washington have suspended the law licenses of Rudy Giuliani, who played a key role in Trump’s campaign. In August, a federal judge in Michigan referred Lin Wood, Sidney Powell and seven other attorneys for possible disbarment for what she called “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process” in connection with a lawsuit that sought to overturn the election there.

Judges in Colorado and Washington have also sanctioned attorneys for lawsuits challenging the election. And the California Bar Association is investigating attorney John Eastman, who played a key role in Trump’s failed effort to persuade Vice President Mike Pence to reject legitimate presidential electors in Georgia and other states in favor of Trump’s false slate of electors.

The false Republican electors have come under scrutiny in recent months. A congressional committee investigating the events that led to the attack on the Capitol recently subpoenaed some of the electors from Georgia and other states, and the Justice Department is investigating whether they may have committed crimes.

The Georgia electors who were attorneys now must contend with the complaints filed by the 65 Project. The complaints say they falsely swore to be the duly elected Georgia presidential electors in documents filed with Congress and with the U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

By doing so, the attorneys “disregarded the U.S. Constitution, violated federal and state law and ignored the judicial decisions on that very matter,” the complaints say.

The complaint against Calhoun focuses on his actions during the storming of the Capitol. The Justice Department has charged him with “corruptly” attempting to obstruct Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote and four misdemeanors relating to his alleged entry into the Capitol. Calhoun had spent months making fiery comments on social media - among other things saying the country was “on the cusp of violent revolution.”

No trial date has been set in Calhoun’s case. But the bar complaint says a conviction is not necessary to determine that he violated professional standards.

Calhoun said he committed no acts of moral turpitude, did nothing violent and did not incite violence. He called his social media comments about Jan. 6 political satire and said “a lawyer’s First Amendment rights to free speech override concerns about the hurt feelings of the hypersensitive, or those gullible enough to believe every uncorroborated claim they see on the internet.”

The three complaints ask the State Bar of Georgia to investigate and discipline the attorneys. The Carver and Moody complaints ask the bar association to consider disbarring them.

Teter, the Project 65 director, said the goal of pursuing sanctions against the attorneys is to discourage future efforts to abuse the legal system in an effort to overturn an election.

“We need to create a system of accountability and consequences,” he said.