The legal saga involving failed efforts to undo the 2020 election recorded an unusual new chapter recently in Ramsey County.

For more than three months, at least one of several lawsuits contesting the election's outcome in Minnesota carried the names of citizens who were unaware that they had been named as plaintiffs in the case.

Ramsey County Judge Leonardo Castro slapped Minneapolis attorney Susan Shogren Smith with a $10,000 fine after concluding she "bamboozled" three Twin Cities voters into being part of the unsuccessful litigation.

According to testimony at a virtual hearing last month, plaintiff Corinne Braun described her shock upon searching for her name in a court records database only to find she was part of a lawsuit against Secretary of State Steve Simon and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar. "All of this was nothing I wanted anything to do with," Braun said.

The suit was one of numerous cases filed by Smith on behalf of the Minnesota Election Integrity Team, a group assembled after the election. Smith filed lawsuits against Simon and Democratic members of Congress.

Smith's lawsuits claimed "countless irregularities" in the election but offered no evidence of widespread fraud and failed to garner court action. No state or federal court challenge to the 2020 election results has produced such evidence. U.S. intelligence, federal law enforcement and election officials have verified the integrity of the vote.

The Minnesota Election Integrity Team's website still includes a link to an "Eligible MN Voter Affidavit" to be signed by "anyone who supports the challenge of these elections to stop the election fraud happening" in Minnesota. The description also said that signatories would be listed as a "Voter Contesting the Elections."

Braun told Castro at a March 26 hearing that she signed what she believed was a petition sent to her via an "anonymous" e-mail that affirmed her belief that voter fraud existed in Minnesota. Smith said the affidavit amounted to an agreement to contest the election results in court, but Braun said she was not under the impression she was signing anything more than a petition.

When she confronted Smith over being unknowingly added to a lawsuit, Braun said Smith told her, "You've got to take one for the team."

An angry Castro concluded that Smith had "perpetrated a fraud" on the court and the unwitting plaintiffs. He struck their names from the case and absolved them of any responsibility related to the lawsuit.

Smith admitted to not consulting with the women before filing the suit. She testified that "I believe in good faith" that other people had those conversations.

"I don't care what you believe," Castro said at one point. "I care what you did."

"Was your cause greater than your responsibility as a lawyer and as an officer of this court?" Castro later asked, in a rhetorical question he did not wait for Smith to answer.

Stephen Montemayor • 612-673-1755