A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Rudolph W. Giuliani was liable for defaming two Georgia election workers by repeatedly declaring that they had mishandled ballots while counting votes in Atlanta during the 2020 election.
The ruling by the judge, Beryl A. Howell in Federal District Court in Washington, means that the defamation case against Mr. Giuliani, a central figure in former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to remain in power after his election loss, can proceed to trial on the narrow question of how much, if any, damages he will have to pay the plaintiffs in the case.
A lawyer for Mr. Giuliani declined to comment.
Judge Howell’s decision came a little more than a month after Mr. Giuliani conceded in two stipulations in the case that he had made false statements when he accused the election workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, of manipulating ballots while working at the State Farm Arena for the Fulton County Board of Elections.
Mr. Giuliani later sought to explain that his stipulations were solely meant to get past a dispute with Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss about discovery evidence in the case and move toward dismissing the allegations outright. But Judge Howell, complaining that Mr. Giuliani’s stipulations “hold more holes than Swiss cheese,” took the proactive step of declaring him liable for “defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and punitive damage claims.”
The lawsuit filed by Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss in December 2021 was among the first to be brought by individual election workers who found themselves dragged into the alternate universe of right-wing politicians and media figures who claimed that Mr. Trump had won the election. The two women had originally sued other defendants, including the One America News Network and some of its top officials, but ultimately settled the case against everyone except Mr. Giuliani.
Last year, Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss appeared as witnesses at a public hearing of the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 and told the story of what happened after Mr. Giuliani amplified the false claims that they had pulled thousands of fraudulent ballots from a suitcase in their vote-counting station and illegally fed them through voting machines.
Although Fulton County and Georgia officials immediately debunked the accusations, Mr. Giuliani kept promoting them, ultimately comparing the women — both of whom are Black — to drug dealers and calling during a hearing with Georgia state legislators for their homes to be searched.
Mr. Trump invoked Ms. Freeman’s name 18 times during a phone call with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, on Jan. 2, 2021. In the call, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Raffensperger to help him “find” nearly 11,800 votes — enough to swing the results in Georgia from the winner, Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“I’ve lost my name, and I’ve lost my reputation,” Ms. Freeman testified to the House panel, adding as her voice rose with emotion, “Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?”