Judges deny Democratic lawyer Marc Elias’s bid to shake court sanctions


A federal appeals court shot down the bid of Democratic lawyer and discredited dossier funder Marc Elias to wriggle out of sanctions for misleading the court.

The former Perkins Coie lawyer, best known for funding British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s discredited dossier while he worked as Hillary Clinton’s top campaign lawyer in 2016, was punished by a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in March. The reprimand came for his deceptive behavior in a battle against a Republican-backed Texas law banning straight-ticket voting.

An attorney for Elias called the sanctions “unprecedented” in late December and sought a full appeals court hearing to “eliminate the chilling effect” of the sanctions. However, the judicial panel unanimously denied the motion this week.

Last year, the 5th Circuit judges determined Elias and others on his team refiled a previously denied motion without notifying the court the first effort had been rejected. Two of the three judges backed the sanctions, saying Elias had wasted the court's time.

“This inexplicable failure to disclose the earlier denial of their motion violated their duty of candor to the court,” the judges ruled last year, adding the redundant motion “multiplied the proceedings unreasonably and vexatiously.”


Elias was ordered to pay attorneys' fees and double costs, and the judges recommended Elias review the section of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct on “Candor Toward the Tribunal” and “complete one hour of Continuing Legal Education in the area of Ethics and Professionalism, specifically candor with the court.”

Elias, who launched his own Elias Law Group last year, hired the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which in turn hired Steele in 2016. Elias testified he was aware of Fusion's plans to have Steele brief reporters about his anti-Trump research during the 2016 contest, met with Steele during the 2016 contest, and periodically briefed the campaign about the findings from Fusion and Steele.


Elias, former general counsel for now-Vice President Kamala Harris's 2020 bid, gained popularity during 2020’s election court battles. Michael Sussmann, another now-former Perkins Coie lawyer with whom Elias coordinated closely with on anti-Trump research in 2016, was indicted in special counsel John Durham’s criminal investigation.

The Washington Examiner detailed how Elias attempted to fashion himself as a guardian of democracy despite his lead role in undermining the 2016 presidential election using the baseless Trump-Russia narrative. Elias responded on Twitter by accidentally referring to himself as someone who was “fighting democracy” before correcting himself to claim he was “fighting FOR democracy.”

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