John Eastman, Trump’s former election lawyer, should be disbarred, judge says
John Eastman, Trump’s former election lawyer, should be disbarred, judge says

A California judge recommended on Wednesday that attorney John Eastman be stripped of his law license, finding that he violated professional ethics rules by persistently lying in his efforts to help former President Donald J. Trump to retain power after losing the 2020 election.

In a 128-page ruling, Judge Yvette Roland said Mr. Eastman had willfully misrepresented the facts in lawsuits he helped file challenging the election results and had acted dishonestly by promoting a “wild theory” that the vice president of Mr. Trump, Mike Pence, could unilaterally declare him the winner during a certification procedure at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

“In short, Eastman was grossly negligent in making false statements about the 2020 election without conducting any meaningful investigation or verification of the information he relied on,” Judge Roland found, adding that he violated “ethical it is his duty as a lawyer to prioritize honesty and integrity.”

The ruling states that Mr. Eastman will lose his license within three days of the ruling. Although he can appeal the finding, the decision renders his license “inactive,” meaning he cannot practice law in California while a review takes place.

The ruling was just the latest effort by lawyers across the country to seek accountability against a group of lawyers who pushed false claims of election fraud and tried to help Mr. Trump stay in office.

“This is a big deal,” said Joanna Lydgate, chief executive of the state Center for a United Democracy, which filed the original complaint against Mr. Eastman. “In the fight to protect democracy and the rule of law, consequences are imperative.”

Randall Miller, a lawyer for Mr. Eastman, said in a statement Wednesday night that he was “confident” the appeals court would “quickly grant a remedy” to the disqualification order.

“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 Mr. Miller.

Mr. Eastman, a constitutional law scholar who once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was one of the architects of a brazen legal scheme to create fake pro-Trump voter rolls in states that were actually won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. He also promoted the plan to pressure Mr. Pence into using the fraudulent ballots in an attempt to throw the election to Mr. Trump during the proceedings.

In recommending that Mr. Eastman lose his license, Judge Rowland accused him of “moral turpitude” for his “dubious strategy to influence Vice President Pence to take unilateral action” to hand the election to Mr. Trump on January 6.

“No law or provision in the constitution gives the vice president the power to reject electoral votes or delay the counting of votes,” the judge wrote. “Eastman knew that.”

Because of his role in the election interference schemes, Mr. Eastman was identified — though not by name — as Conspirator 2 in a federal indictment filed in Washington last summer accusing Mr. Trump of plotting to overturn the election. The indictment describes Co-Conspirator 2, who has not been charged in the case, as a lawyer who devised and attempted to carry out a plan to “use” Mr. Pence’s “ceremonial role” at the Jan. 6 trial to “impedes the certification of the presidential election.”

Mr. Eastman faces charges in a separate state case in Georgia, where he is named along with Mr. Trump in a growing racketeering allegation. That indictment accuses Mr. Eastman of participating in a conspiracy to manipulate the results of the Georgia election.

The disciplinary case against Mr. Eastman was opened at the State Bar of California in Los Angeles in January 2023. After an extensive, weeks-long hearing that delved into his promotion of baseless allegations of election fraud and his dissemination of fringe legal theories about the presumptive Vice President body to single-handedly choose the winner of a presidential election, bar officials returned a preliminary finding in November that he had violated his professional ethics.

Hours before the ruling against Mr. Eastman came down, another pro-Trump lawyer, Jeffrey Clarke, faced his own disciplinary hearing in Washington. Mr. Clark testified during Wednesday’s hearing, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination dozens of times.

In the final days of Mr. Trump’s presidency, Mr. Clark, a senior Justice Department official, sought to be named acting attorney general, in part by promising to push Mr. Trump’s false allegations of election fraud to civil servants in Georgia and other states. Like Mr. Eastman, Mr. Clark was identified as an accomplice in Mr. Trump’s election meddling case in Washington and was named as one of the former president’s co-defendants in the Georgia case.

In 2021, another lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who led Mr. Trump’s efforts to reverse his election defeat, had his license suspended in New York. In 2023, a legal ethics commission in Washington recommended that Mr. Giuliani lose his license there as well.

That year, Jenna Ellis, another lawyer who worked for Mr. Trump after the election, admitted that she knowingly misrepresented the facts in several public claims that widespread vote fraud led to Mr. Trump’s defeat. Those admissions were part of an agreement to accept a public censure and settle disciplinary action brought against her by officials of the State Bar in her home state of Colorado.

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