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Two Colorado lawyers will pay steep fines for filing false election claims

Damage is seen inside the US Capitol building early on January 7, 2021 in Washington, DC, after supporters of US President Donald Trump breeched security and entered the building during a session of Congress. - Donald Trump's supporters stormed a session of Congress held today, January 6, to certify Joe Biden's election win, triggering unprecedented chaos and violence at the heart of American democracy and accusations the president was attempting a coup. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

It wasn’t a game. False election fraud claims led directly to violence and deaths.

You know the old saying: The wheels of justice turn exceedingly slow, and the only certain outcome is that when it’s all over you’re going to owe people a lot of money. That’s the saying, right? 

Two Colorado lawyers are now learning that lesson after a judge ruled that their late 2020 lawsuit— claiming without a shred of evidence that the presidential election had been stolen from Donald Trump through a conspiracy involving Dominion Voting Systems, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, four different states, an election reform group, and take-your-pick—was not only frivolous but also merited the payment of fines. We’re not talking about Trump sedition-backing lawyers Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, though: these are two different lawyers who filed a frivolous suit based on hoaxes, raised funds off it, and, in the words of the judge, was “used to manipulate gullible members of the public and foment public unrest.”

Gary Fielder and Ernest John Walker have been ordered to pay about $180,000 in attorneys fees to the companies and states they invoked in their conspiracy claims, with $50,000 going to Facebook and roughly $63,000 to Dominion Voting Systems. Honestly, if Facebook wanted to be good guys about this they should just hand their $50k over to a charity or something, that’s not even blowing-your-nose money to the company more focused on dodging claims that their products are leading to spikes in teen depression, mass hysteria, and anti-democratic violence.

But it’s a good reminder that judges are slowly doling out consequences to lawyers who attempted to nullify a presidential election—again, by “foment[ing] public unrest”—based literally on whatever new urban legend popped into their emails. The two lawyers in question, according to the same judge’s earlier ruling holding them responsible for filing a frivolous suit, made no particular attempts to determine whether the conspiracies they were claiming to be true actually were.

Is losing $180,000 a sufficient consequence for filing conspiracy claims that helped launch a violent insurrection? No, probably not. It’s also the sort of thing that ought to end your legal career right then and there, but we’ll see whether this is or isn’t the last word on this case. The number of people who have now been convinced that insurrection against the government may now be needed, by the absolutely fraudulent claims of Rudy Giuliani, Powell, and OH BY THE WAY, actual sitting senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, is likely many, many times greater than the number of Americans who will hear that this pair of lawyers are now facing consequences for spreading those lies.

Those Americans will continue to believe that the hoaxes the Republican Party and its allies spread are real. It’s difficult to imagine a remedy that Fielder, Walker, and other stokers of violence could deliver that would repair even a fraction of that damage.

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