Attorneys to Hageman: Letter not a threat, just a plea for the rule of law
October 6, 2022
A coalition of Wyoming attorneys condemning Harriet Hageman’s false statements about the 2020 election delivered a followup letter to the congressional candidate’s law office Friday.
Originally, a group of 41 legal professionals wrote Hageman, a natural resources attorney, asserting that her comments during an August candidate forum were professional misconduct in violation of her oath as an attorney.
“Absolutely the election was rigged,” Hageman said during the event, marking the first time the candidate had taken such a clear position. Previously, she had equivocated about the validity of 2020 presidential election.
“We ask that you not make any further statements denying the lawfulness of the 2020 election, or of the legitimacy of President Biden’s authority,” the attorneys said. “Beyond that, we also hope that you challenge, or at least distance yourself from, those that continue to perpetuate the dangerous myth of the ‘stolen election.’”
Instead, Hageman shared a link to the letter in a press release and called it an attempt “to squelch my own 1st Amendment rights because they disagree with me.” She also characterized the letter as a “threat to file a bar complaint,” but she did not respond directly to her colleagues. The group clarified in its second and most recent correspondence, that the first letter was not sent to the state bar’s disciplinary counsel.
“You may have misunderstood our concerns, so we — joined by additional colleagues who were not sponsors of our initial letter — write again to clarify,” the attorneys, now totaling 51, said in their most recent correspondence. The additional signees include retired District Court Judge Peter Arnold, former Wyoming Bar Association Presidents Richard Davis and William Hiser, as well as Jack Speight, former chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party.
“Harriet heard them the first time,” Tim Murtaugh, a Hageman campaign advisor, said in an email on Monday. “They don’t like her opinion and want her silenced. Same response [as before] applies.”
Separately, an attorney not associated with the group filed a grievance against Hageman with the Wyoming State Bar this summer, as originally reported by WyoFile. Darby Hoggatt submitted the complaint after a June 30 debate in which Hageman downplayed the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and said there were “serious questions about the 2020 election.”
The state bar declined to investigate following Hoggatt’s complaint, because Hageman’s conduct in question took place outside of the courtroom, according to documents provided to WyoFile by Hoggatt.
In her press release regarding the first letter, Hageman did not repeat that the election was “rigged,” choosing instead to say that “there remain serious questions about that election.”
The attorneys expressed disappointment that the congressional candidate has continued to make “vague statements about [the election’s] legitimacy,” they wrote. They also said some of the attorneys in the group received “vitriolic emails” from Hageman supporters following the press release.
“These kinds of responses, and worse, are what happens when political leaders peddle misinformation and innuendo in support of their electoral ambitions,” the group wrote.
The letter goes on to lay out the signatories’ position. It details, for example, how courts evaluate and decide claims, such as allegations of election law violations, and how those processes are outlined in federal and state laws. Using those parameters, courts in more than 60 cases found the claims of election law violations “were either factually or legally insufficient,” the letter said.
The oath of attorney obliges Hageman and other lawyers “to accept the outcome and to ‘support, obey and defend’ the legal system,” according to the letter’s authors.
Lawyers, the 51 co-signers argue, “are not free to go out and publicly attack courts, judges, or the legal process that resulted in our being on the losing side of a case.”
“This is what is at the heart of the ‘Rule of Law.’ And this is what is at the heart of the peaceful transition of elective power imperative to maintaining a free and democratic society,” the letter said. “That is what our previous letter, and this letter is about.”
If Hageman would ever face disciplinary action by the state bar, such as suspension or disbarment, it would not prohibit her from holding public office.
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