A federal judge called the conspiracy theories “baseless”–and potentially dangerous.
A federal judge has sanctioned two Colorado attorneys who filed a class action lawsuit claiming that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump, ordering them to pay their rivals’ legal fees.
According to The Associated Press, the attorneys’ complaints relied on “baseless” conspiracy theories spread by former President Donald Trump and his political allies.
In their lawsuit, the Colorado attorneys named as defendants everyone from Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, to elections officials in four different states. It also accused Dominion Voting Systems of perpetuating fraud.
In his Wednesday ruling, Magistrate Judge N. Reid Nureiter found that both attorneys spread inflammatory theories that put people’s lives in danger.
“The lawsuit put or repeated into the public record highly inflammatory and damaging allegations that could have put individuals’ safety in danger,” Nureiter wrote. “Doing so without a valid legal basis or serious independent personal investigation into the facts was the height of recklessness.”
The Associated Press observes that Nureiter’s ruling referenced the January 6th riots outside the United States Capitol, which were spurred—in large part—by unsubstantiated claims that Dominion Voting Systems had rigged its machines to falsely show that Joe Biden had won the election.
Some Trump supporters went so far as to claim that Dominion had connections to the regime of the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, and had similarly helped Chavez falsify election records to remain in power.
In their claims against Dominion, the attorneys suggested that the company had “deleted” votes for Donald Trump.
Nureiter, though, called the class action’s claims tantamount to an “enormous conspiracy theory,” and suggested they could also be construed as defamatory.
“The unique circumstances of this case, including the volatile conditions surrounding the 2020 election, the extremely serious and potentially damaging allegations against public servants and private entities, the remarkable request to declare void and ineffective the certification of the electoral votes of several states, along with an extraordinary money demand of $160 billion and the lack of any time pressure, meant that any reasonable pre-filing investigation needed to involve extensive due diligence and the testing of the allegations, including actually talking to human beings, such as the lawyers who filed the failed lawsuits and the experts who submitted affidavits. Under the circumstances of this case, Plaintiffs’ counsel did not fulfill this obligation,” Nureiter wrote in his 68-page judgment.
“The public statements from authoritative sources and courts rejecting allegations of widespread voter fraud or ballot-rigging should have been, if not bright red, at least flashing yellow lights warning Plaintiffs’ counsel to proceed with caution,” Neureiter said. “Instead, they drove through the lights at full speed, even accelerating.”
Now, Colorado-based attorneys Gary D. Fielder and Ernest John Walker will have to pay the legal fees for Dominion, Facebook, and several other defendants.
The defendants, adds CNN, are expected to estimate their legal expenses later this month. Once they have provided an estimate, Nureiter will determine sanction payment amounts.