Judge recommends ex-Trump election lawyer John Eastman be disbarred

An attorney discipline judge in California has recommended that ex-Trump election lawyer John Eastman be disbarred, according to an opinion released on Wednesday.

Eastman will lose his ability to practice law within days, because the court’s decision involuntarily revokes his license, according to the opinion.

Judge Yvette Roland’s opinion comes after a lengthy trial about Eastman’s actions as he led some of the efforts for Donald Trump to challenge his 2020 election loss. The opinion serves as a recommendation to the California Supreme Court, which will ultimately decide whether to endorse or reject the punishment. Eastman will have the opportunity to appeal Roland’s ruling.

Still, the judge’s opinion marks a major step in the consequences for lawyers who propelled false theories of election fraud on Trump’s behalf.

“Eastman failed to uphold his primary duty of honesty and breached his ethical obligations by presenting falsehoods to bolster his legal arguments,” Roland wrote.

“In sum, Eastman exhibited gross negligence by making false statements about the 2020 election without conducting any meaningful investigation or verification of the information he was relying upon,” she wrote.

The judge also rejected Eastman’s efforts to argue that he believed lies about election fraud were true, writing that “Eastman cannot avoid culpability through his willful blindness—willful blindness that is tantamount to Eastman’s actual knowledge that the allegations regarding hidden ballots were false.”

Decisions like the California judge’s could further destroy the credibility of lawyers who rallied around Trump after the election while cutting them out of circles where some, like Eastman – who has spent his career as a law professor and a frequent author of Supreme Court amicus briefs – have functioned as conservative thought-leaders​.

An attorney for Eastman, Randy Miller, said in a statement Wednesday that Eastman maintains he worked as he should have on legal issues after the 2020 election for his then-client Trump.

Miller also attacked the bar’s immediate revocation of Eastman’s law license as unfair, because he cannot work as a lawyer at a time when he needs funds to fight criminal charges in Georgia that are also related to his 2020 election work for Trump.

“Any reasonable person can see the inherent unfairness of prohibiting a presumed-innocent defendant from being able to earn the funds needed to pay for the enormous expenses required to defend himself, in the profession in which he has long been licensed. That is not justice and serves no legitimate purpose to protect the public,” the statement said.

Eastman was accused by the State Bar of California of harming the country by conspiring with Trump to disrupt the transfer of power, while knowing there was no valid legal theory to block Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win in 2020, according to records from the disciplinary case.

Roland found that Eastman knew his plan for then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn Biden’s victory while presiding over the Electoral College certification “lacked legitimacy,” and that his two-page memo outlining the plan was “was designed to provide legal support and convince Vice President Pence to carry out that strategy.”

READ: Trump lawyer’s full memo on plan for Pence to overturn the election

The State Bar used nearly two dozen witnesses and more than 400 pieces of evidence to recreate at the trial how Eastman misled others: writing memos for Trump proposing the submission of fake electors to Congress, arguing to Pence to throw out votes, and making false claims in court and in a speech to Trump supporters on January 6, 2021.

Roland’s sweeping 128-page opinion also includes a thorough debunking of problematic claims about voting that Eastman included in court filings for Trump in the days after the election. Those cases were dismissed by courts across the board at the time, though few judges have dug into them as thoroughly as Roland did in the new opinion.

The judge noted that Eastman’s lack of remorse contributed to her decision that he should lose his ability to practice law. Roland also said Eastman should be fined $10,000 as part of his sanctions.

However, the judge said that even though Eastman made false and misleading statements to the crowd at the Ellipse, there was “no evidence to show that Eastman’s statements contributed to the assault on the Capitol.”

States United Democracy Center, a group that had complained to the state bar in California about Eastman, called the judge’s decision a “major accountability milestone” and noted disbarment is among the most severe punishments a lawyer can face.

Eastman testified in his own defense at the disciplinary trial, saying he wasn’t attempting to provoke violence.

Later, the Justice Department took interest and requested transcripts from the bar proceeding, according to the proceeding records.

Eastman’s bar findings are separate from the criminal charges he faces in Georgia, where he is accused of taking part in a 2020 election racketeering conspiracy led by Trump. In that case, he has pleaded not guilty.

A disbarment in California would be confirmed by other state bars across the country.

California isn’t the only state looking closely at Trump’s 2020 election lawyers. Several jurisdictions that regulate the legal bar have filed disciplinary charges against other lawyers who worked on Trump’s behalf, including Jeffrey Clark and Rudy Giuliani. Each man has faced robust disciplinary trials – with first-hand witnesses testifying about Trump’s actions and the legal efforts around him, long before criminal trials will revisit the same events in more closely watched courts.​

Clark, who served in the Trump Justice Department, is currently on trial in a disciplinary proceeding in Washington, DC, this week, with his former superiors at the Justice Department testifying against him.

Giuliani’s law license is currently suspended, and the Washington, DC, bar is looking at a recommendation for his law license to be permanently revoked.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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