OMAHA, Neb. – Two Nebraska elected officials continue to feel repercussions of their decisions to support a Texas lawsuit that challenged the 2020 presidential election results in four states.
On Friday, Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers filed a grievance against Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson and Secretary of State Bob Evnen, both Republicans, with state Supreme Court Counsel for Discipline Mark Weber.
The grievance against Peterson was for signing an amicus brief containing “false, disproven and unsubstantiated accusations,” and against Evnen for endorsing the brief’s “fallacious contents” and Peterson’s action.
Chambers said he believed bringing Nebraska into the fray on the lawsuit was wrong.
Cases of this kind had been thrown out or rejected without even a hearing by state and federal courts, Chambers said. He also believes Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton knew it would go nowhere, delivering it straight to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court quickly tossed it out.
It was thrown into court just to take time, get publicity or play to a political base, Chambers said.
The grievance said the words and actions of Peterson and Evnen violated provisions of the Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct.
After signing the amicus brief on behalf of Nebraskans, Peterson and Evnen got prompt push back from Chambers, Black leaders in Omaha, Nebraska U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, legal experts, many Nebraskans who commented on social media and from editorials and letters to the editor published in Nebraska’s two largest newspapers.
One man called it a “petty and childish move,” others said the move embarrassed them, and one woman said: “How dare we support a naked power grab by the Republican Party because they didn’t like the election results.” Another woman said she had three words for Peterson, Evnen and Gov. Pete Ricketts, who said he supported the lawsuit because the rule of law should be followed. “Shame on you!” she said.
Chambers said partisan politics, not the law, motivated the elected officials’ support.
A lawyer violates the Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct by instituting an action of such frivolousness as to constitute disrespect for a tribunal — the highest one in the land, Chambers said. Peterson knowingly and intentionally joined in such an action by signing the amicus brief, he said.
Case law states the conduct of a government attorney is required to be more circumspect than that of a private lawyer because it reflects upon the entire system of justice in terms of public trust.
“I actually read the briefs, which were approved of by the two ‘government lawyers,'” Chambers said. “I am forced to wonder whether either man did.”
Chambers said a lawyer may file a frivolous lawsuit, totally lacking legal merit, however may not do so without consequences, which flow from his or her status as a holder of a conditional license to practice law.
After Weber gets the complaint, he will decide if there is a basis to investigate, and if so he would seek a response from the two officials.
The Nebraska Supreme Court prescribes standards of conduct for attorneys, and can disbar, suspend, censure or reprimand attorneys who fail to comply with the obligations of a member of the bar.