The State Bar of California is moving to disbar attorney and former law professor John Eastman for supporting President Donald Trump’s efforts to challenge the 2020 election results.
In a disciplinary action filed on Thursday, the regulatory body of California lawyers claimed that Eastman should be stripped of his license over his actions in the period leading up to, and in the aftermath of, the Jan. 6, 2021, protest that devolved into a breach of the U.S. Capitol building.
Eastman is accused of violating multiple attorney ethics rules as he provided legal advice and formulated legal strategies in aid of Trump’s presidential bid. The state bar’s trial counsel brought 11 counts against him, including one count of “failure to support the Constitution,” two count of “seeking to mislead the court,” and six counts of “misrepresentation.”
The counsel particularly took issue with, among other things, Eastman’s attempt to convince Vice President Mike Pence that he had the authority to reject electoral votes from seven states where the integrity of the election was called into question. Pence eventually refused to take the advice, as Eastman laid out in a two-page memo.
“[Eastman] knew, or was grossly negligent in not knowing, that this assertion was false and misleading,” the counsel alleged.
Eastman’s attorney, Randall Miller, said in a statement that his client disputes “every aspect” of the accusations.
“Any lawyer engaged to provide his or her legal assessment in a dynamic, consequential, and often emotional arena should be deeply troubled by the notion that a licensing authority (bar) can take their license if they do not like the lawyer’s advice, or find the advocacy distasteful,” Miller said in a statement.
“The foundation of any engagement is that the lawyer shall protect the client’s interests, at every turn,” he added. “This is includes raising all viable options.”
The complaint now heads to the State Bar Court of California, which will ultimately decide on it.
A member of Trump’s inner circle of legal advisers during the 2020 election, Eastman has faced scrutiny from the Democrat-dominated House Jan. 6 Committee and President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice for the role he played in what they deemed “insurrection.” In its final report, the now-dissolved committee condemned the plan he created for Pence as “insane” and “crazy,” recommending that he faces federal criminal prosecution.
Eastman has dismissed the committee’s recommendation as an “absurdly partisan” move carrying no legal weight.
“The January 6th committee had the resources and mandate to make important contributions in the area of Capitol Security, Electoral Count Act Reform and other areas of potential legislation. Sadly, this opportunity has been squandered in favor of concocting a pretend ‘criminal case’ from pretend prosecutors designed to create political advantage for the Democratic Party and stigmatize disfavored political groups,” he said in a statement in December 2022. “The American people have been ill-served by the January 6th committee and its members.”
Eastman also resigned from his teaching position at Chapman University following pressure from faculty and students to have him fired, which the university’s president resisted.