Court Ruling: Rudy Giuliani Held Liable for Defaming Georgia Election Workers

Updated August 30, 2023, 2:50 p.m. EDT

Top line

A federal judge on Wednesday held attorney Rudy Giuliani liable for defamation after he falsely accused two Georgia election workers of voter fraud. This was the latest legal issue the former Trump lawyer faced weeks after he was indicted in Georgia over his post-2020 election efforts.

Leaving the Fulton County Jail Aug. 23 in Atlanta.Getty Images

Important facts

U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell issued a default judgment against Giuliani – meaning a verdict was reached in the case without going to trial – finding him guilty of defamation, infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy , after he spread conspiracy theories about poll worker Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss.

The plaintiffs asked the court to sanction Giuliani by entering a default judgment against him after the attorney failed to provide evidence in the case or take “appropriate steps” to protect his electronic communications with Howell – via disabling the automatic deletion of his messages He found that only 124 of the documents handed over by Giuliani were actually relevant and thousands were just “indecipherable blobs.”

Giuliani's 50 years of experience as a lawyer “only underscores his lackluster preservation efforts,” Howell wrote, noting that the lawyer admitted during a hearing: “I've been doing this for 50 years; I understand the obligations.”

Giuliani had already admitted to making defamatory statements in the case's court filings for purposes of the discovery dispute, but did not admit that he had committed defamation, leaving open the possibility that he might still appeal the case in the future could — but Howell wrote that those court filings “contain more holes than Swiss cheese,” and Giuliani was trying to “have his proverbial cake and eat it too,” which the judge called “unfair.”

Howell also ordered Giuliani to pay the plaintiffs attorneys' fees — in addition to more than $89,000 he was previously ordered to pay and still has not paid — and his company must pay $43,684 in attorneys' fees Giuliani will be personally liable if his company doesn't pay.

Giuliani's political adviser Ted Goodman said in a statement to Forbes that the verdict is “a prime example of the justice system's weaponization of trial as punishment.”

Crucial quote

“Instead of simply adhering to the rules designed to promote an educational process necessary to reach a fair decision on the merits of plaintiffs' claims, Giuliani has framed plaintiffs' efforts to ensure compliance as 'punishment by procedure.' ' lamented,” Howell wrote. “On a public stage it may be good for certain viewers to don a cloak of victimization, but in court this appearance has only served to easily undermine the normal process of disclosure.” [sic] Defamation case.”

What you should pay attention to

The defamation case against Giuliani is still being heard in court, where it will be decided how much the lawyer will have to pay in punitive damages in addition to the legal fees Howell has already ordered. It is still unclear when that trial will take place, although Howell has ordered Giuliani to turn over documents relevant to the damages determination by September 20.

Main critic

“This decision should be reversed because Mayor Giuliani is being wrongly accused of failing to preserve electronic evidence seized and preserved by the FBI,” Goodman said Wednesday, referring to the FBI's seizure of Giuliani's electronic devices April 2021 as part of an independent and current action -Completed investigation.

Surprising fact

According to media reports and his own lawyers' admissions in court, Giuliani faced significant financial problems amid the numerous legal battles against him. Although his lawyer pointed to Giuliani's financial problems as a reason for his inability to pay the legal fees already imposed on him, he asked the court to delay the payments until the case was completed, Howell said in the court decision that he was not convinced by that argument . The judge said claims that Giuliani could not reimburse legal fees were “doubtful” because Giuliani was recently able to pay more than $320,000 to the vendor that held his electronic data – which was reportedly the former president's super PAC Donald Trump sold his New York apartment for $6.5 million and reportedly flew to Georgia “on a private plane” to turn himself in to authorities after being indicted there.

Important background

Freeman and Moss filed their lawsuit against Giuliani in December 2021, claiming he orchestrated “a sustained smear campaign” against them that made them “objects of vitriol” by spreading a far-right conspiracy theory linking the workers to fraud, “Threats and harassment”. Giuliani falsely claimed that Freeman and Moss were caught on camera attempting to rig the 2020 election, including by “secretly passing around USB ports as if they were vials of heroin or cocaine” (actually enough a far less stressful ginger mint candy). Moss said). Georgia's Secretary of State's Office determined after an investigation that the allegations against poll workers were “false and unfounded.” The defamation lawsuit is one of several lawsuits against Giuliani over his role as the Trump campaign's lead attorney in trying to overturn the 2020 election, including lawsuits from voting machine makers Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic. He has also had his law license revoked and may be barred from practicing law because of his post-election activities. Howell's ruling comes weeks after Giuliani was one of 19 defendants indicted in Fulton County, Georgia, on charges of attempting to overturn the state's election, with 13 counts filed specifically against him. If convicted, the lawyer faces up to 20 years in prison on the extortion charge, in addition to the penalties for other crimes. Freeman is included in the indictment as prosecutors accuse Trump allies of unlawfully harassing her by accusing her of election crimes she did not commit. However, Giuliani was not among the defendants and there are no criminal charges against him in connection with the poll worker.

further reading

Rudy Giuliani's Growing Legal Troubles: Here Are All the Troubles Trump's Lawyer Faces (Forbes)

Giuliani should face 'severe sanctions' for 'misconduct' in 2020 defamation case, Georgia election officials say (Forbes)

Rudy Giuliani Must Pay $89,000 in Legal Fees in 2020 Defamation Case (Forbes)

Rudy Giuliani's Financial Problems Deepen as Legal Fees Rise – Here's What We Know (Forbes)

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I'm a senior reporter based in London and New York City covering breaking news, with a focus on legal issues, including the Supreme Court and litigation against Donald Trump. I previously covered politics and news for Vanity Fair and Mic and was a member of the New York Outer Critics Circle as a theater critic. Follow me on Twitter @alisond64 or contact me at

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