Petition to NM high court seeks probe of Trump lawyers - Albuquerque Journal

Petition to NM high court seeks probe of Trump lawyers

A petition filed Thursday with the New Mexico Supreme Court seeks a public investigation into the actions of two attorneys who filed a lawsuit in December 2020 in an attempt to stop the state’s 2020 election results from being made final. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The attorneys who filed a last-ditch lawsuit on behalf of President Donald Trump’s campaign in an attempt to stop New Mexico’s 2020 election results from being finalized could face investigation and possible discipline, under a court petition filed Thursday with the state Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court petition, filed on behalf of a group of six New Mexico attorneys, says a probe would also shed light on how New Mexico fit into a national Trump campaign scheme that has drawn scrutiny from a congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

That includes GOP electors certifying Trump as the winner of the 2020 election in some states – including New Mexico – that were actually won by Democrat Joe Biden.

But the 31-page petition mostly focuses on whether the two attorneys who filed the December 2020 lawsuit in federal court in New Mexico on behalf of Trump’s campaign should be disbarred or face other discipline.

Those attorneys are Mark Caruso, an Albuquerque personal injury attorney, and Texas-based attorney Michael Smith.

“Purposeful evasion of exclusive provisions of New Mexico’s election challenge and recount statutes and this Supreme Court’s exclusive jurisdiction presents colorable grounds for an investigation into whether attorney discipline is needed,” the petition says.

The Supreme Court petition, which asks that a special counsel be appointed to lead the investigation and that all records be publicly released at the probe’s conclusion, was filed by John Wertheim, a lawyer and former state Democratic Party chairman.

It was filed on behalf of a group of attorneys that includes former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez.

Previously, the New Mexico Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Board declined a February 2021 request from some of the respondents to investigate the attorneys involved in the Trump campaign lawsuit.

However, more details have surfaced since then, including a memo from former Vice President Mike Pence’s legal counsel Greg Jacob that’s submitted as evidence in the new Supreme Court petition.

In that memo, Jacob says Trump attorney John Eastman, a Santa Fe resident, proposed the vice president could delay reading the electoral certificates for fives states – including New Mexico – until legislators in those states could certify which of the competing slate of electors for each state was “true and correct” in their claims of victory.

In all, New Mexico was one of seven states won by Biden in which designated GOP presidential electors convened to cast votes for Trump after the 2020 election.

Unlike New Mexico, however, the six other states in which Republican electors convened to sign election certificates were all hotly contested “swing” states – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Prosecutors in several of those states, including New Mexico, have referred to federal law enforcement allegations that Republicans submitted a false document intended to deliver more electoral votes to Trump.

But the GOP electors in New Mexico added a caveat saying they were only casting votes in the event legal challenges led to the election’s outcome being overturned.

While top state GOP officials have, in part for that reason, said New Mexico’s five designated Republican presidential electors did nothing “illegal or sinister,” their pledged votes for Trump came despite Biden winning New Mexico and its five electoral votes by a comfortable margin of 11 percentage points – or more than 99,000 votes.

Meanwhile, Trump campaign’s lawsuit was filed on Dec. 14, 2020, the same day the state’s five GOP electors certified Trump as the winner of that year’s election.

While the lawsuit did not make any specific allegations of voting fraud or irregularities, it alleged Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver had overstepped her legal authority by authorizing use of the ballot drop boxes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While the lawsuit was eventually dropped, Wertheim said those involved with the Supreme Court petition feel strongly about the need for those who filed it to be investigated.

“My clients and myself, we believe lawyers as part of their oath pledge to protect the constitutional order of the republic,” Wertheim told the Journal. “If there’s a case that might have violated that, it needs to be investigated.”

An attorney representing Caruso and Smith did not immediately respond Thursday to questions about the Supreme Court petition.

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