- California legal authorities want to disbar John Eastman for trying to keep Donald Trump in power.
- Eastman tried to convince former VP Mike Pence to block the vote certification on January 6, 2021.
- State bar charges say he corrupted the practice of law with “dishonesty and corruption.”
California legal authorities have filed disciplinary charges against John Eastman, a law professor who advised former President Donald Trump on how to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
George Cardona, the top trial lawyer for the California state bar, brought 11 charges that allege Eastman made false and misleading statements that amount to acts of “moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption,” the disciplinary charges say. The case will go to the State Bar Court of California, where Eastman has an opportunity to defend himself.
Following Trump’s loss in the 2020 election, Eastman, a former professor at the Chapman University School of Law, drafted legal memos that purported to offer avenues to keep him in office. He backed the dubious legal theory that then-Vice President Mike Pence would have the power to override the will of voters and block certification of electoral college votes for now-President Joe Biden, as outlined in a memo he previously shared with Insider (and which one constitutional law expert described as a “proposed coup cloaked in legal language”).
Eastman pushed this bunk theory even after courts around the country tossed dozens of challenges to 2020 election results, and then-Attorney General Bill Barr said he saw no evidence of widespread fraud that would change Biden’s victory, according to the charges. That prompted critics, including the bipartisan States United Democracy Center, to demand he be investigated for possible ethics violations — a demand the bar has now heeded.
“By proposing to Pence that he had the legal authority to and should act unilaterally to resolve purported disputes regarding electoral votes on January 6, 2021, or that he had the legal authority unilaterally to delay certification of the votes, respondent advanced a radical and incorrect theory of constitutional law and election law,” the bar charges state.
Former Trump legal adviser John Eastman
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Undeterred, Eastman spoke at the pro-Trump rally at the Ellipse of the National Mall in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021, and pushed false conspiracy theories about election fraud. At his speech, he demanded that Pence ask legislatures to examine those debunked theories.
“During his speech, respondent stated to the crowd that fraud had occurred in the November 3, 2020, presidential election, including a claim that ‘dead people had voted’ and that Dominion electronic voting machines had fraudulently manipulated the election results,” the charges say. “Respondent made these statements with the intent to convince the listener that the outcome of the presidential election had been affected by fraud.”
Eastman’s speech contributed to the violent attack on the Capitol by pro-Trump supporters, according to the charges. During the riot, Eastman emailed Pence’s White House Counsel Greg Jacobs blaming him and Pence for the insurrection.
“The ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss did not do what was necessary to allow this to be aired in a public way so that American people can see for themselves what happened,” Eastman wrote at the time.
The California Bar court ultimately has the ability to strip Eastman of the ability to practice law in the state. It may impose fines or issue other sanctions, such as censure.
Randall A. Miller, an attorney for Eastman, said in a statement that his client — a senior fellow at the conservative Claremont Institute — was merely providing “his evaluation of alternatives available to [former] President Trump in the fluid and fast-moving aftermath of the 2020 election.” Eastman, posting on Substack, said he plans to “respond to each charge in due course.” For now, he is soliciting money for his legal defense, having already raised more than $250,000.
The former law professor is one of many lawyers allied with Trump who has faced professional consequences for pursuing false conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
The Washington, DC bar is currently evaluating potential sanctions against Rudy Giuliani, who pushed false claims while attempting to overturn Trump’s loss in Pennsylvania. Giuliani has also been sued by election technology companies he implicated in false conspiracy theories about the election results, and has lost his ability to practice law in New York. Jeffrey Clark, a former Trump Administration Justice Department official who tried to overturn the election results, is also facing charges from the DC bar.
Trump’s attorneys have been sanctioned for other reasons, too. Earlier this month, a federal judge in Florida fined him and his attorney Alina Habba nearly $1 million for filing a “frivolous” lawsuit that alleged Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey colluded to make him lose the 2016 election, which he actually won.