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Giving Legal Advice Should Not Be Criminalized

On August 14, 2023, Fulton County DA Fani Willis announced the indictment of President Trump and 18 others under Georgia’s RICO statute, a statute traditionally used to prosecute organized crime. Among those charged with participating in the alleged grand scheme to overturn the 2020 election results, were several attorneys who provided legal advice to the former president.

Candidates for public office in the U.S. necessarily rely on legal counsel of various types to qualify for the ballot, comply with campaign finance requirements, advocate before legislative and administrative bodies, file lawsuits challenging infirmities or inaccuracies in election administration, and more. Leading candidates for U.S. president must employ legal counsel throughout the country, to be competitive.

The right of a candidate, and his or her attorneys, to provide legal advice and advocacy is a fundamental and integral aspect of the fundamental, First Amendment-protected act of running for public office. Any attack on these rights, threatens not only the speech and petition rights of campaigns, but also the rights of the tens of millions of Americans who vote in our elections.

But that’s just what Georgia prosecutors have decided to do — punish attorneys for providing legal advice with which certain politicians disagree, and doing so on a purely partisan basis.

What was the extent of these attorneys’ participation? Expressing their opinion and belief that election irregularities occurred in the 2020 election, and sharing that opinion via legal memos, social media, and conversations with state legislators.

These are not crimes under any regime respecting due process or the First Amendment.

Let’s be clear: giving legal advice, regardless of whether it’s good advice or even correct advice, should not be criminalized. Not only does Georgia’s dangerous precedent seek to deter attorneys from doing their duties for their clients–it violates their right to freedom of speech.

No matter whose attorneys are being targeted, the idea that partisan district attorneys can criminalize legal advocacy will, if left unanswered, have a major chilling effect on the ability of attorneys to do their jobs, for candidates to obtain zealous legal counsel, and for voters to effectively exercise their fundamental rights at the polls.

“The strategy underlying the recent lawyer indictments is not about law or justice,” said Harmeet Dhillon, the CEO of the Center for American Liberty. “It is, instead, a cynical and partisan distortion of the prosecutor’s function to seek justice. If left unchallenged,  this practice will hamper many candidates, up and down the ballot, from obtaining necessary legal counsel. The Center for American Liberty was formed to defend the civil rights of Americans, which includes American attorneys and their clients.”

The targeted lawyers will now have to spend perhaps millions of dollars in legal fees to defend their innocence and preserve their liberty. The clients they might represent will have to seek counsel elsewhere, from a bar of election attorneys whose professional advice is now given at great risk.

Center for American Liberty is proud to announce the creation of its Advocate Defense Fund. All proceeds of this fund will be directed toward the defense of the lawyers recently indicted in Fulton, GA.

Practicing law isn’t illegal. Speaking freely about the law isn’t illegal. Raising questions about election integrity isn’t illegal. Advocating for your client isn’t illegal. These actions are protected by the First Amendment.

Unless we take a stand for our freedoms, these attacks will only increase, at the expense of our liberty as a nation.

Donate now to contribute to this defense of freedom.

Donate to the Advocate Defense Fund