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Complaint Seeks To Disbar N.Y. Rep Zeldin Over Vote Objecting To Election Certification

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.)
Charles Lane
U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.)

Twenty-two lawyers in New York have filed a complaint against U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) accusing him of ethics violations this month in his objection to the congressional certification of Joe Biden as president.

The complaint, filed with the Attorney Grievance Committee for the state Supreme Court Appellate Division, seeks to revoke Zeldin’s licence to practice law in the state following an immediate investigation.

Similar investigations are underway against former Trump lawyer Rudy Guilliani.

Zeldin joined 139 representatives and eight senators in objecting to the presidential ratification hours after a violent mob of President Donald Trump extremists assaulted the U.S. Capitol following a rally in Washington, D.C. The lawyers claim Trump and his close allies, including Zeldin, incited the violence that killed five people, including a Capitol police officer. Authorities have made over 100 arrests.

“The New York Bar must send a powerful message to the public that the legal profession is committed to the defense of our democratic institutions and will not tolerate the conduct of attorneys who seek to subvert the will of the people, undermine our elections, and recklessly contribute to the incitement of violence,” the complaint said.

A spokesperson for Zeldin said in a statement that most of these attorneys are registered Democrats and claims half have donated to Zeldin's opponents. A few of the signers include Sarah Burr, a retired U.S. immigration judge, and Jeanne Frankl, a former longtime East Hampton Town Democratic Committee leader.

“If those public calls don’t exist, their calls now are just hyper-partisan and hypocritical nonsense,” the spokesperson said.

Zeldin has said his objection is within his right, as Democrats took the same process against Trump in 2017 and Republican President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2005.

“It's an incredible double standard that if Republicans object as well on the same date in the same place as part of the same process then that makes them all seditious traitors. Those who committed acts of violence in the Capitol must be held accountable,” the spokesperson said.

The lawyers also claim professional legal misconduct when Zeldin participated in “frivolous litigation” by joining an amicus brief in support of a Texas lawsuit that sought to invalidate the election results in battleground states won by Biden. That lawsuit was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court, and 60 other lower courts across the country where similar bids by the Trump campaign were made.

They also accuse Zeldin of “making false statements regarding the presidential election, and committing, arguably, a criminal act that reflects on his trustworthiness.”

Zeldin maintains that poll watchers in Philadelphia were denied the ability to closely monitor the counting of mail-in ballots. A state judge granted the Trump campaign a court order to expand access to the ballot counting operation. He has said that is an example of election irregularities that undermine the results of the certification process.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.