WASHINGTON — A federal judge threatened to refer two Jan. 6 defense attorneys to a disciplinary committee this week – saying he believed they’d misled the court and harmed their client.
Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden reluctantly agreed to once again continue the trial of Christopher Quaglin, a New Jersey electrician facing multiple felony charges alleging he assaulted police during the Capitol riot. Quaglin has been in pre-trial detention since his arrest in April 2021, and McFadden said the delay could mean the trial, and his ongoing detention, might have to be continued until the fall.
Until earlier this month, Quaglin was represented by New York-based attorney Joseph McBride and Jonathan Gross, a civil attorney based in Maryland who joined the case late last year. McBride withdrew from the case suddenly two weeks ago, leaving Gross as Quaglin’s only attorney of record.
Quaglin had been scheduled to go to trial on April 10 – a date set in August after McBride requested a lengthy continuance for health reasons – but on Tuesday the judge again delayed the trial after learning Gross, who practices Orthodox Judaism, would not appear in court during the Passover holiday. Compounding the issue, Gross also informed McFadden he was not a criminal defense attorney and had never practiced criminal law before – with the exception of sitting as the fourth-chair attorney for another of McBride’s Jan. 6 clients, Richard Barnett, in January.
In McBride’s motion to withdraw, he wrote that Gross “knows Quaglin’s case well” and that his departure from the case “will not prejudice Defendant Quaglin.” McFadden indicated in court this week and in his order that he doesn’t believe those statements were true – and also said he now “has doubts that McBride’s initial continuance request was made in good faith.” At the time, McBride said in court filings doctors had informed him he had chronic Lyme disease — a controversial diagnosis with little support among medical experts, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In a lengthy footnote, McFadden detailed the filings and court appearances McBride made for other clients after his continuance request, as well as numerous public appearances.
“According to his public Twitter account, he also gave many news interviews during that time. McBride also spoke to a local committee about his fight for the ‘January 6 political prisoners’ and continued to tweet at length about Quaglin’s troubling detention conditions, despite not filing anything on his behalf,” McFadden wrote. “Finally, in early November 2022, McBride posted pictures of himself on the beach at Mar-a-Lago and inside former President Trump’s 2024 campaign announcement party.”
“While lawyers – like all citizens – are entitled to speak freely, these public representations by McBride call into question the genuineness of his need for a medical continuance because of his inability to represent Quaglin last October,” McFadden continued.
McBride, a New York-based attorney who frequently makes media appearances where he compares the prosecution of Jan. 6 defendants to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Gulag, has drawn McFadden’s ire in the past. Last year, the judge scolded him for repeatedly missing hearings and important filing deadlines in Quaglin’s case. The judge’s order also isn’t the first time McBride’s medical claims have come under scrutiny. In a late-December filing, prosecutors noted he had requested a continuance in the Dec. 12 trial of another client, Richard Barnett, because of a necessary medical procedure three days earlier.
“Mr. McBride nonetheless was able to appear on December 10, 2022, as the ‘Special Guest’ at another political event,” prosecutors wrote, pointing out McBride had posted photos of himself sitting next to Donald Trump Jr. at a New York Young Republican Club dinner that evening.
McBride was scheduled to begin the trial for his client Ryan Nichols on Monday, but requested, and was granted, another continuance by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth for a family medical issue.
On Thursday, McFadden filed an order requiring McBride and Gross to appear before him on April 18 to tell him why they shouldn’t be referred to the Committee on Grievances for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for violations of professional rules governing competence, diligence and honesty
“Quaglin’s attorneys have now delayed this trial multiple times to the detriment of their client, who remains detained, and to the inconvenience of his co-defendants and the Government who see a speedy resolution to this matter,” McFadden wrote.
McBride has strenuously objected in the past to the suggestion that he has prioritized media appearances over court or that that his continuance requests are not based on legitimate medical issues. In a filing in January, McBride argued prosecutors should be sanctioned for making “false and misleading allegations” about his health. On Thursday, he told WUSA9 in a statement that he rejected McFadden’s characterizations as well.
“I deny the insinuations in Judge McFadden’s order about my representations to the court regarding my medical condition and continuance requests,” McBride wrote. “I am highly uncomfortable with the paternalistic inquisition into how I overcome an illness and the creation of a controversy where none exists. I will respond further on or before April 10th, as the court has ordered, and I look forward to a favorable resolution.”
Gross did not respond to a request for comment.
If the attorneys were referred to the disciplinary committee and found to have violated one or more rules of professional conduct, they could potentially face reprimand, probation or suspension of their licenses to practice law.
New trial dates have not yet been set for Quaglin or Nichols. McBride also represents Adam Jackson, of Texas, in a separate felony Jan. 6 case. Barnett was convicted on all charges in January and, earlier this month, McBride moved to withdraw from Barnett’s case prior to sentencing. A judge has not yet ruled on that request.
We're tracking all of the arrests, charges and investigations into the January 6 assault on the Capitol. Sign up for our Capitol Breach Newsletter here so that you never miss an update.