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Attorneys In Supreme Court LGBTQ+ Rights Case Could Be Disbarred If They Lied About Key Document


Attorneys In Supreme Court LGBTQ+ Rights Case Could Be Disbarred If They Lied About Key Document

The attorneys who represented a Colorado web designer who the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday could refuse to make wedding websites for same-sex couples over her religious objections, could be disbarred amid new reports that appear to refute the veracity of a key document that lies at the center of the case.

On Friday, the last day of Pride month, the Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority ruled in favor of Lorie Smith, a Colorado web designer who argued she should not have to serve same-sex customers due to her religious beliefs as a Christian, and that prohibiting her business from doing so would violate her First Amendment rights.

One of the key documents that both sides of the case repeatedly referenced during the trial was an inquiry Smith said she received from a gay man who was asking her to build a website for his upcoming wedding. But days before the court issued its final ruling, the man who allegedly submitted the request says he never asked to work with her and says he’s straight and happily married to a woman.

The website request in dispute, from a person identified in court documents as “Stewart,” came to light only after lawyers for the state of Colorado pressed the web designer, Laurie Smith, and her lawyers on whether she had sufficient grounds to sue.

Smith named Stewart in court filings as someone who requested graphic designs for invitations and other materials for a same-sex wedding with his fiancé, Mike. His phone number and email address are listed in 2017 court documents.

But Stewart told The Associated Press he never submitted the request and didn’t know his name had been invoked in the lawsuit until he was contacted last week by a reporter from The New Republic, which first reported his denial.

“I was incredibly surprised given the fact that I’ve been happily married to a woman for the last 15 years,” said Stewart.

Stewart said that he “did not submit a request” to the company, 303 Creative, and has no idea who “Mike” is.

“I’ve never asked anybody to design a website for me, so it’s all very strange. I certainly didn’t contact her, and whatever the information in that request is, is fake.”

Stewart, who previously worked for CNN, said that he is a web designer himself, and that “it would make zero sense to hire a web designer when I can do that for myself.”

“It is concerning that nobody connected with this case over the last six years has ever thought to call me, email me, text me to try and corroborate that communication in any way,” he said, adding: “I don’t necessarily think that would be a tipping point in this case at all, but at the very least … a case of this magnitude should be corroborated, should be fact checked along the way.”

Now questions are being raised about whether or not the attorneys representing Smith will be subject to repercussions for breaking ethical and procedural rules that bar lawyers from making misrepresentations in court.

“If a lawyer (or anyone else) on the plaintiff side knew that there was no such claim she could face several consequences, from the minor to the major,” former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Weissmann told Newsweek.

“If the lawyers representing Smith are found to have made knowingly false representations, the Supreme Court could remove them from practicing in that court and arguing future cases before the justices, Weissman said. Those attorneys could also be referred to their bar associations for sanctioning, which could include suspensions or disbarment,” reports Newsweek.

Weissmann also noted that if there is strong proof that the attorneys knew the document was falsified, the attorneys “could face criminal charges for making a false filing in a court.”

“This is potential fraud on the Court,” Sherrilyn Ifill, the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, tweeted. “It warrants investigation, potential vacatur & disciplinary proceedings. It also should be seen as a consequence of the Court’s apparent zeal to hear this case which did not meet standing even [without] fraud.”

Former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani noted that the only person who could sue over the alleged fabrication is Stewart.

“Ironically, the person who has actual standing to civilly sue Smith or her lawyers for privacy torts or defamation is Stewart himself,” Rahmani told Newsweek.

Stewart called the Supreme Court’s decision Friday morning “disgraceful” and said that “it does seem like the entire case has been somewhat concocted to achieve a specific outcome.”

“As a designer, I think designers can refuse to do work for a prospective client for any number of reasons,” Stewart said. “Race, gender, sexual orientation should not be one of those.”

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