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Lawyers who filed election lawsuit ordered to pay rivals’ fees

A federal magistrate has levied penalties against two Colorado attorneys after concluding that their class-action lawsuit alleging the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump was “reckless.” Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems, whose election machines were at the center of some of the most fevered speculation, had been targeted by their lawsuit. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, File)

DENVER — A federal magistrate on Wednesday levied penalties against two Colorado attorneys for filing a class-action lawsuit that alleged the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump.

The now-dismissed suit relied on baseless conspiracy theories spread by the former president and his supporters. It named elected officials in four swing states, Facebook, the company’s founder Mark Zuckerberg and Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems, whose election machines were at the center of some of the most fevered speculation.

Magistrate Judge N. Reid Nureiter ruled that the two attorneys who filed the lawsuit must pay the legal fees of the defendants.

“The lawsuit put into or repeated into the public record highly inflammatory and damaging allegations that could have put individuals’ safety in danger,” Nureiter wrote, noting the Jan. 6 insurrection was spurred by the lies it repeated, as were threats against election and Dominion officials. “Doing so without a valid legal basis or serious independent personal investigation into the facts was the height of recklessness.”

There are few recourses against false lawsuits other than penalizing lawyers for filing them. Repeated audits and recounts found no significant fraud in the presidential election. Even Trump’s own administration  said the election was clean.

That did not stop Trump and his allies from filing dozens of suits and continuing to insist the contest was stolen from him, a lie that inspired the crowds that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. In the end, Trump and his allies lost more than 50 of the election lawsuits.

The lawyers in the Colorado case, Gary D. Fielder and Ernest J. Walker, were not connected with other Trump lawyers — including Sidney Powell, who is one of multiple Trump-backing attorneys who face possible sanctions for an unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the election results in Michigan.

Fielder and Walker said during a court hearing last month that they were trying to protect democracy.

Powell is being sued by Dominion after she alleged it helped rig the election for Biden by manufacturing machines that could flip votes from Trump to Biden.

Another of Trump’s attorneys, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, had his law license suspended in his home state. That suspension, in practice, may well amount to a national suspension.

A New York appeals court took the action in June, saying Giuliani’s bid to discredit the election was so egregious that he poses “an immediate threat” to the public.