As Shakespeare famously wrote in Henry VI Part II: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”
Even for me as a lawyer, it’s hard not to sympathize with that sentiment. Lawyers are a drag. But in reflective moments, I’m more partial to Sir Thomas More’s line from Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons: “And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s!”
The evenhanded application of the law is a principle that must be defended. Everywhere, balance and perspective are under attack. Whatever the costs of America’s process-heavy adversarial contests, that feature of our polity is a key bulwark of liberty. Due process is not something to be trifled with, deconstructed, or thrown away based on the passions of the political moment.
Yet that is happening, right now. The Left has set the lines of battle: Any lawyers who worked for President Trump with verve and ingenuity, along with any lawyers he retained to mount his various 2020 election contests, must be crushed, must have their noses rubbed into the dirt, must if possible lose their jobs and even their right to practice law. It’s not right, just as it would not have been right to demonize the lawyers who mounted Al Gore’s challenges to the 2000 presidential election in Florida.
On the Left, the constant rallying cry is “Remember January 6!” It’s like a woke version of “Remember the Alamo!”, designed to divide and conquer instead of unite the nation in the spirit of apple-pie American patriotism. For those who know me, I’m a lot more partial to traditional patriotism than to false and cynical attempts by MSNBC and its ilk to use the aberration of January 6 as some kind of Rosetta Stone to American politics. As James O’Keefe has recently brought to light, even Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times secretly knows I’m right.
Project 65 and Its Despicable Aims
When the Left wants something, you can be sure that limitless streams of money will soon pour forth to fund their destructive crusade. Recently, Axios profiled something significant you might have missed: “Project 65,” a new initiative funded by millions in “dark money” to destroy as many Trump-affiliated lawyers as possible.
At the retail level, Project 65’s purpose is to file bar complaints against 111 lawyers wherever they are licensed. At the wholesale level, it seeks to amend state bar rules, so that no lawyers with a sense of self-preservation will ever again want to bring election-related contests on behalf of President Trump, or any other populist conservative candidate. According to Project 65, everyone secretly knows that elections in Atlanta, Chicago, or Philadelphia (my home town) are entirely aboveboard, so any legal challenges to them must be in bad faith. My Mom’s stories from decades of poll watching in Philadelphia must have been hallucinated, and a slew of election fraud cases in Philadelphia must have magically disappeared from the annals of the law. The Chicago corruption of Mayor Daley in the 1960 presidential election is an old wives’ tale. Election fraud in America simply doesn’t exist. Of course, some exceptions exist—for Democrat complaints of voter fraud, of course. Don’t expect Project 65 to file a bar complaint any time soon against losing candidate Stacey Abrams over her frequent claims to be the legitimate governor of Georgia.Project 65 is led by David Brock, the founder of Media Matters for America and the super PAC American Bridge 21st Century. Brock is still on his life-long quest to expiate his decades-old “sin” of writing The Real Anita Hill, a book attacking the credibility of Clarence Thomas’s harassment accuser. Brock will be joined by an advisory board that includes former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, Clinton affiliate Melissa Moss, and “Republican” Paul Rosenzweig.
(Here I pause to ask, Paul, what’s happened to you? We both served in the Bush 43 Administration, me at Justice and you at Homeland Security. President Trump actually achieved many of the goals President Bush advocated, yet rarely did much to accomplish. Talking a good game is not the same thing as running a good game. Best to judge by fruits and not by braggadocious tweets, I think. Never Trumpism seems to be a fever that makes calmly comparing records impossible.)
Here’s what Brock describes as the mission of his project: “[Project 65] will not only bring the grievances in the bar complaints but shame them and make them toxic in their communities.” According to Axios, Brock’s plan is nothing less than a war of the strong against the weak: “I think the littler fish are probably more vulnerable to what we’re doing… You’re threatening their livelihoods. And you know, they’ve got reputations in their local communities.”
Give Brock points for honesty, at least. Not everyone has the guts to gloat about being pure evil. Project 65 is torn right from the playbook of Saul Alinsky (“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it”): Shame lawyers, plague them with hefty legal bills, and especially pick off ones who are less famous and backed by fewer resources. Given all that, it’s better to call Project 65 Project Shame, Project Fear, or the Project of Personal Destruction. And wait, why is it even called Project 65? Because (groan) that’s the number of lawsuits filed to support the “Big Lie,” of course.
Monopolies are never good, whether one is talking about cornering the market for silver, for banking services, for rare earth minerals (hello CCP), or for social media. Lawyers are indispensable to promoting any abstract cause or to any concrete enterprise that must enter the court system to present grievances. Trying to shame, outlaw, and destroy the personal reputations of any category of lawyers, on the Right or on the Left, must be resisted with maximum effort. And make no mistake, as Axios recognizes after talking to Brock himself (and others at Project 65 clinging to anonymity), the goal of the effort is to chill market forces: “The 65 Project is focused on starving any future efforts of legal talent as well as focusing on 2020.”
Professor Alan Dershowitz sees the game afoot. He told Breitbart that he will “defend any lawyer targeted by [the] McCarthyist ‘65 Project.’” Good for him. He immediately recognizes that Project 65 flunks any test of Kantian evenhandedness and ethics:
Bingo. It’s the Golden Rule. If progressives can try to starve Republicans of legal talent, turnabout will become fair play. And it should not be allowed to become fair play—by either side. Weaponizing bar rules to endlessly relitigate contests about the 2020 presidential election (or any election) is not what the rules of legal ethics and professional conduct exist to accomplish. It is blatant lawfare, designed to impose ruinous costs on lawyers of an enemy political faction. It’s a Pandora’s box that should remain closed.
It was only 22 years ago when lawyers like me sought to block the election of President George W. Bush, believing as we did that Al Gore actually received more votes than Bush in Florida and was the rightful winner. We lost in court. But back then no one suggested going after the hundreds of lawyers who tried to prevent Bush’s certification. A dangerous weapon, like the 65 Project, unleashed by Democrats will surely be used by Republicans at some future time. [Breitbart]
The Three Categories of Lawyers Project 65 Seeks to “Freeze” in Alinsky TermsProject 65 plans to target three categories of lawyers: (1) Trump’s inner circle of lawyers, e.g., Jenna Ellis and Boris Epsteyn, (2) lawyers who signed on to be alternate presidential electors; and (3) attorneys who participated in the attack on the Capitol or were simply present at the events of January 6.
Let’s take each of these categories in turn. For category 1, the Project reasons that being close to Trump is its own unpardonable sin, a form of guilt by association. That’s as un-American as it gets. Next, as to alternate electors: In the 1960 presidential election between Nixon and Kennedy, there were alternate Democratic Hawaii electors for Senator Kennedy who eventually became the actual electors, so lining up alternative electors to be ready for such an opportunity can’t be inherently illegal or unethical. And finally, while a lawyer who participated in violence at the Capitol on January 6 is clearly a proper subject of a bar investigation and stern discipline, the idea that a lawyer’s mere presence at the January 6 protest is unethical is the stuff of a banana republic. Is every left-leaning lawyer who protested George Floyd’s death to be rounded up and disbarred because Antifa members assaulted a courthouse in Portland or burned down a police station in Minneapolis?
Is at Least One Other Entity Cooperating With Project 65?
The public announcement of Project 65’s kickoff was followed just a few weeks ago by a public announcement that the Texas Bar was considering allegations of unethical conduct filed against the Lone Star State’s Attorney General, Ken Paxton.