Top Democratic Election Lawyer Sanctioned in Suit Against Texas

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One of the Democratic party’s top election lawyers was hit with sanctions by a federal court for violating ethics rules in a suit against Texas over straight-ticket voting, a rare rebuke for a seasoned attorney following months of tumultuous litigation over the November election.

Marc Elias and other lawyers with Perkins Coie LLP were ordered Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans to pay legal fees and “double costs” to Texas. The order was issued in a suit Elias filed in August on behalf of the Democrats’ Senate and congressional campaign committees.

After raising the alarm about what he called voter suppression efforts by Republicans before the election, Elias led a team of lawyers across the country that successfully sued to expand ballot access in crucial swing states during the pandemic. His many victories, which he touted on Twitter, opened him to attacks from critics including former President Donald Trump, who called him an “Election stealing lawyer.”

Perkins Coie said it stands behind Elias.

“We do not normally respond to requests for comment on pending litigation, but the firm and the attorneys involved in this matter strongly disagree with the appellate court’s ruling and its order of sanctions in this case,” it said in a statement. “The firm fully and completely supports our attorneys in this case.”

Elias didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Elias in February filed a so-called motion to supplement the record in a case accusing Texas of trying to illegally scrap straight-ticket voting during the pandemic, even though an identical motion had already been denied earlier in the case. The technical violation “unreasonably and vexatiously” dragged out the litigation by creating more work for the court, according to the ruling.

“This inexplicable failure to disclose the earlier denial of their motion violated their duty of candor to the court,” according to the appeals court, one of the most conservative in the country. “If appellees had any confusion about the application of the order, they could have and should have disclosed the previously denied motion in their new motion.”

The sanctions were praised by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, an outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump, whose own lawsuits to overturn the election results failed. Elias and his firm had been notified of the violation in advance and “refused to withdraw their motion,” Paxton said.

“They were aware of their violations and blatantly chose to ignore them,” Paxton said in a statement.

Perkins Coie has more than 1,100 lawyers in the U.S. and Asia, according to its website.

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