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January 6th Defense Lawyer Disbarred

Fifteen months after the January 6 2021 Capitol insurrection, news that defense lawyer Johnathon Moseley was disbarred in April 2022 began spreading on social media platforms:

Court orders Jan. 6 defense lawyer disbarred from politics

That particular development involved additional context about Moseley, his involvement in the defense of insurrectionists, and other elements.

What Does It Mean To Be Disbarred?

According to Cornell’s Legal Information Institute (LII):

Disbarment is the disciplinary withdrawal of an attorney’s privilege to practice law by sanctioning the attorney’s license to practice law. It is the most severe sanction for attorney misconduct. A disbarment proceeding is an investigation by the state bar regarding the conduct of a member of the bar in order to determine whether the attorney will be disbarred.

A disbarment proceeding is not an adversarial lawsuit with the formalities of common law pleading and judgment, so technical legal defenses cannot be called upon to aid in response to the charge.

The purpose of a disbarment proceeding is to remove unfit attorneys from practicing in court. The highest court in any state has inherent judiciary power to regulate conduct of attorneys practicing in that state. The court then delegates considerable power to the state bar association, which then establishes the rules of conduct for lawyers and investigates and punishes violations of these rules through professional discipline: reprimand, suspension, and disbarment.

Who is Jonathon Moseley?

In Moseley’s Twitter bio, he describes himself as “an attorney in Virginia, and a political activist.”

Moseley caught the attention of legal blog Above the Law in January 2022, for a piece entitled “Oath Keepers Lawyer Gives Spectacular Sh*tshow Interview On CNN.” In a prescient analysis of Moseley’s then-recent CNN appearance, the site explained:

[On January 13 2022], the Justice Department indicted eleven members of the far right Oath Keepers militia for participating in a seditious conspiracy to overthrow the government on January 6, 2021. Their lawyer Jonathon Moseley is currently tweeting that “I plan on drinking champagne on Oath Keepers Kelly Meggs’ new yacht, purchased from his malicious prosecution lawsuit against a dishonest prosecution over January 6.”

Which is not even the worst error in judgment from the Northern Virginia attorney today [January 14 2022]. Because Moseley started his morning getting spanked by CNN’s Brianna Keilar in this extremely ill-advised interview.

Keilar asked how Moseley plans to defend his clients against conspiracy charges when the government has copious evidence that they planned a violent attack, including a stockpile of weapons in hotel rooms in Arlington and Signal messages anticipating a “bloody fight.”

[…]

“It was about their somewhat fanciful idea that the president was going to call them up under the Insurrection Act, which I don’t pretend to understand,” Moseley explained, claiming that his clients were simply stockpiling guns in anticipation of lawfully overthrowing the federal government at the behest of a defeated president. “They were quite fixated on the idea that Trump was going to activate them as a militia under the Insurrection Act.”

Above the Law embedded the referenced January 14 2022 tweet by Moseley:

Moseley was mentioned in a February 2 2022 Associated Press article about the ongoing case. His name later appeared in a March 9 2022 BuzzFeed piece about funding for the legal defenses of January 6th defendants:

A nonprofit founded by Sidney Powell — the former attorney for president Donald Trump who has repeatedly attempted to reverse the results of the 2020 election — has been covering the full legal expenses of at least one and potentially multiple defendants in the high-profile case, BuzzFeed News has learned.

Since October [2021], the organization, Defending the Republic, has been making monthly payments to the defense attorney for Kelly Meggs, a member of the militant group the Oath Keepers who is charged with seditious conspiracy for his role in the Jan. 6 [2021] Capitol riot. In an interview, the attorney, Jonathon Moseley, said he was aware of “at least three or four other defendants who have that arrangement” as well. The Oath Keepers’ general counsel, Kellye SoRelle, said that one of those others is the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes. Offered the chance to deny that, his lawyers said they don’t discuss funding.

BuzzFeed noted that external funding of lawsuits is not unheard of, citing Peter Thiel’s involvement in suing (and ultimately silencing) Gawker.com. The outlet described motions or filings referencing “far-flung conspiracies about COVID-19, antifa, and the deep state” in the course of the defendants’ defenses — and alluding to previous cautions for Moseley:

Such tactics have raised eyebrows among some attorneys representing members of the Oath Keepers who are not receiving outside funding. They question whether the unorthodox legal filings are hurting, rather than helping, their case. The filings have also brought rebukes from the federal judge overseeing the case and, in the case of Moseley, a threat of sanction. “Counsel for Mr. Meggs is admonished to keep the moralizing and sermonizing out of his motions,” Judge Amit Mehta wrote in late January [2022]. “These proceedings will not become a platform for counsel’s personal political views.”

Why Was Moseley Disbarred?

Politico appeared to break the story on April 5 2022, reporting what little information was available at the time of publication.

The outlet contacted Moseley, describing him as “tight-lipped” about his disbarment:

On Friday [April 1 2022], after a two-day hearing in Prince William County Circuit Court, a three-judge panel ordered Moseley’s law license revoked, court records show.

Details of the bar discipline case against Moseley were not immediately available, but a summary posted on the Virginia State Bar website on Tuesday [April 4 2022] said the court found that he violated “professional rules that govern safekeeping property; meritorious claims and contentions; candor toward the tribunal; fairness to opposing party and counsel; unauthorized practice of law, multijurisdictional practice of law; bar admission and disciplinary matters … and misconduct.” The decision was effective on April 1 [2022].

Moseley plans to fight the disbarment and immediately filed an appeal. Reached by phone on Tuesday night [April 4 2022] and asked about the bar action, he was tight-lipped.

Politico referenced Moseley’s “head-scratching public filings describing his billing practices,” adding:

Moseley’s involvement in these cases was marked by his unusual and rambling legal filings, which drew the ire of judges like Mehta, who is presiding over the sprawling Oath Keepers conspiracy cases.

For example, Mehta chastised Moseley in December [2021] for joining with another attorney to seek the release of two Jan. 6 [2021] defendants who claimed they might be given Covid vaccine injections against their will. Mehta emphasized that there was “no evidence to support their fantastic fears.”

The outlet linked to the Virginia State Bar website, where the following information was published:

April 5, 2022

Jonathon Alden Moseley, 5765-F Burke Centre Parkway, #337, Burke, VA 22015

VSB Docket Nos. 19-053-114672, 20-053-117461, 20-053-117932, Circuit Court No. CL21-5760

Effective April 1, 2022, the Circuit Court of Prince William County revoked Jonathon Alden Moseley’s license to practice law in the Commonwealth for violating professional rules that govern safekeeping property; meritorious claims and contentions; candor toward the tribunal; fairness to opposing party and counsel; unauthorized practice of law, multijurisdictional practice of law; bar admission and disciplinary matters; judicial officials; and misconduct.

Summary

On April 5 2022, social media posts stated that a lawyer for several January 6th defendants had been disbarred. On that date, Politico reported that Jonathon Alden Moseley’s license to practice law had been revoked in Virginia on April 1 2022. Moseley was unwilling to provide additional details, but publicly available information about the decision was available on the Virginia State Bar’s “disciplinary” page.

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