Former Trump lawyer John Eastman should lose his state law license, judge says
Former Trump lawyer John Eastman should lose his state law license, judge says

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge has recommended that conservative attorney John Eastman lose his California legal license for his efforts to keep former President Donald Trump in power after the 2020 election.

Eastman, a former law school dean, faced 11 disciplinary charges in state bar court stemming from his masterminding a legal strategy to get then-Vice President Mike Pence to interfere in certifying President Joe Biden’s victory.

California State Bar Judge Yvette Roland’s recommendation, issued Wednesday, now goes to the California Supreme Court for a final decision on whether he should be disbarred. Eastman may appeal the decision to the high court.

“Dr. Eastman asserts that his approach to the legal issues he has been asked to evaluate following the November 2020 election is based on sound legal precedent, previous presidential elections, constitutional text research, and extensive scholarly material,” said Eastman’s attorney, Randall Miller, in a statement after the sentencing. “The process undertaken by Dr. Eastman in 2020 is the same process undertaken by lawyers every day, everywhere – indeed, it is the essence of what lawyers do.”

The judge found Eastman guilty of 10 of the 11 charges, including misleading the courts, moral turpitude, making false statements and conspiring with Trump to obstruct the transfer of power.

“Eastman conspired with President Trump to obstruct a lawful function of the United States government; specifically, by conspiring to disrupt the January 6, 2021 election count,” Roland wrote in his 128-page decision.

The California State Bar is a regulatory agency and the only court system in the United States dedicated to the discipline of lawyers.

Eastman separately faces criminal charges in Georgia in the case accusing Trump and 18 allies for plotting to overturn the Republican’s loss in the state. Eastman, who has pleaded not guilty, said he was simply doing his job as Trump’s lawyer when he challenged the results of the 2020 election. He denounced the case as targeting lawyers “because of their zealous advocacy on behalf of their clients.”

He is also one of the unnamed co-conspirators in a separate case of meddling in the 2020 election brought by special counsel Jack Smith, but Eastman has not been charged in the federal case.

The State Bar of California argued that Eastman violated the state’s business and professions code by making false and misleading statements which constitute acts of “moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption”. In doing so, the agency said, he “breached that duty in support of an attempt to usurp the will of the American people and overturn the results of the election for the highest office in the land — a blatant and unprecedented attack on our democracy.”

In his ruling, Roland wrote, “In light of the circumstances surrounding Eastman’s misconduct and balancing the aggravating and mitigating factors, the court recommends that Eastman be disbarred.”

Eastman was a close adviser to Trump in the run-up to January 6, 2021, attack of the US Capitol. He wrote a memo outlining a plan for Pence to deny legitimate electoral votes to Biden while presiding over a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 to keep Trump in the White House.

Prosecutors are looking stripped Eastman of his law license described him as a Trump aide who concocted a baseless theory and made false claims of fraud in hopes of overturning the election results.

Eastman’s attorney countered that his client never intended to steal the election, but was considering ways to delay the vote count so states could investigate allegations of voting irregularities. Trump’s claims of fraud have been roundly rejected by the courts, including Trump-appointed judges.

The judge was unconvinced by Eastman’s claim that his actions were nothing more than dedicated impersonations of Trump.

“It is true that a lawyer has a duty to engage in zealous advocacy on behalf of a client,” Roland wrote. “However, Eastman’s inaccurate statements were lies that cannot be justified as zealous advocacy. Eastman failed his fundamental duty of honesty and breached his ethical obligations by presenting falsehoods to support his legal arguments. Finally, the court noted that acts of moral turpitude are a departure from professional norms and are clearly outside the scope of protection afforded by the First Amendment and the duty of vigorous advocacy.

Roland settled with Eastman’s attorney on one of the 11 counts. The judge found that Eastman’s remarks at a Washington rally on Jan. 6 did not contribute to the subsequent attack on the Capitol.

Eastman will be placed on involuntary inactive status within three days of the judge’s order, meaning he cannot practice law in California while the Supreme Court hears the case, the state bar said.

The US Center for a United Democracy, which filed an early ethics complaint against Eastman, welcomed the judge’s decision.

“This is a decisive victory in the effort to hold accountable those who tried to overturn the 2020 election. After hearing from nearly two dozen witnesses during a 35-day trial, the court found that John Eastman violated his ethical obligations to uphold the constitution,” said Christine P. Sun, the nonprofit’s senior vice president. “This ruling sends an unequivocal message: No one is above the law — not presidents, not their lawyers.”

Eastman has been a member of the California Bar since 1997, according to her website. He was a law clerk to US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and founding director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, a law firm affiliated with the Claremont Institute. He ran for California attorney general in 2010, finishing second in the Republican primary.

Eastman was dean of the Chapman University of Southern California School of Law from 2007 to 2010 and was a professor at the school when he retires in 2021 after more than 160 faculty members signed a letter calling on the university to take action against him.

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