Today’s meeting of the Electoral College is a reminder that confidence in the integrity of elections is essential to our democracy and to the rule of law—the basic principle, as John Adams described it, that ours is a “government of laws not of men.” Since the election, questions have been raised about the roles lawyers have played in challenging the election results.
Public statements questioning the outcome of an election can be debated in the court of public opinion. But when lawyers challenge election results in court, different rules apply. To file a lawsuit, lawyers are required to certify that factual contentions they make are based on evidence; that their legal claims are based on existing law or a legitimate argument for establishing new law; and must be prepared, ultimately, to prove their claims in court.
An independent judiciary is essential to preserve the rule of law. Judges must, again in Adams’ words, be “as free, impartial, and independent as the lot of humanity will admit.” We count on judges to decide cases, including challenges to election results, based on evidence and objective legal principles, and when that evidence is lacking, to dismiss cases on the merits. Since the election, judges across the country, appointed by presidents and governors of both parties, have consistently rejected lawsuits challenging the election results.
Members of the bar also have a role to play in upholding the rule of law by adhering to the rules of professional conduct. If a lawyer files a frivolous lawsuit, the opposing party may ask the judge to impose sanctions, or the court may impose sanctions on its own accord. State bar officials may also take disciplinary action. The Boston Bar Association has confidence that the judges and bar officials who may ultimately decide whether sanctions are warranted in cases challenging the election results will address these issues thoughtfully and carefully.