Judge orders Rudy Giuliani to detail finances in election libel suit
“I can’t say I’m happy about it,” Judge said, later calling Giuliani’s efforts to search for relevant emails and messages an “obscure mess.”
While the court session explored various issues regarding the evidence in the case, much of the focus was on Giuliani’s assertion in a recent court filing that he could not conduct further research on emails and other records stored in an electronic database because the seller was looking for $320,000 to enable this. The former mayor, U.S. attorney and Justice Department official said he simply couldn’t afford the sum.
Howell said Giuliani’s “poverty claim” meant plaintiffs were entitled to insight into his finances.
A lawyer for Giuliani, Joseph Sibley, said plaintiffs should not be provided with personal information, such as court documents detailing Giuliani’s obligations during his 2019 divorce from third wife Judith Nathan.
But Howell said the plaintiffs had a right to know about Giuliani’s financial situation, including divorce-related payments, before deciding whether to help foot the bill for document searches in the case. Generally, parties must manage their own costs to comply with discovery obligations.
“I think it would be relevant to assessing his financial net worth,” Judge said.
Giuliani intervened at various points during the lengthy hearing, sometimes despite signals from Sibley asking his client to hold back. The former mayor said complying with requests for documents in the election officials’ defamation lawsuit was complicated by the fact that the FBI seized all of his electronic devices in April 2021 as prosecutors investigate violations potential foreign agent laws in relation to Giuliani’s work in Ukraine. .
“The FBI took every electronic device from my apartment and my law office,” said Giuliani, who often reminded the judge of his days as a federal prosecutor. “Having done this work at some point in my life, it was about as comprehensive as it gets.”
Giuliani was never charged in the investigation, which has been closed.
“I’ve been doing this for 50 years. I understand the obligation,” Giuliani added indignantly. “There is nothing I want to hide. I would like them to see everything. … Not being perfect doesn’t mean you cut things out. I don’t delete anything.
Giuliani explained that he ran various keywords himself through his social media apps and other accounts, but Howell questioned the rigor and accuracy of this. “This manual search is unverifiable,” she said.
An attorney for the election officials, Meryl Governski, said the plaintiffs received emails from third parties they subpoenaed that were sent to or from Giuliani but he never produced in the litigation.
“We think the time is right for him to engage professional help,” Governski told Howell.
Sibley told the judge that a former attorney for Giuliani was trying to work out a payment plan with the seller who has data collected by the FBI, but could not offer a timeline for resolving that dispute.
“It’s torture by process,” Giuliani muttered as he left the courtroom during a break. He then filed a somewhat more limited complaint with the judge.
“It’s a punishment by process. … I understand what they’re doing,” the former mayor said.
Howell, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, had ordered Giuliani to appear in person for Friday’s hearing. This, too, is rare, as lawyers usually resolve these issues without their clients being present.
In addition to ordering Giuliani to itemize his finances, the judge gave him an end-of-month deadline to identify all devices and other forms of document storage he used during the relevant period of the lawsuit.
The lawsuit at issue Friday accuses Giuliani of defaming Freeman and Moss by alleging they conspired to exclude observers from an Atlanta ballot counting site, stashed stacks of ballots not authorized on election night and fed them into ballot counting machines. The women say the demands are absurd and they harassed them.
An earlier version of the lawsuit also sought damages from the company behind One America News, two of its owners and one of its employees who worked closely with Giuliani. Parties linked to One America News reached a settlement with Freeman and Moss about a year ago, leaving Giuliani as the only remaining defendant in the lawsuit.
After the hearing, Giuliani declined to speak to reporters about the fight over the documents. “I don’t comment on discovery disputes,” he said.
However, outside the courthouse, he disserted on a range of other topics. He presented himself as a victim of a “fascist state” seeking to punish anyone who provided legal advice to former President Donald Trump.
“Your rights have been seriously compromised by the fascist tactics that were used to get Donald Trump, one of them persecuting his lawyers,” Giuliani said.