LOS ANGELES (AP) — Conservative attorney John Eastman, a lead architect of some of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election, was slapped Thursday with a series of disciplinary charges in California that could lead to his disbarment.
The State Bar of California’s chief trial counsel, George Cardona, said in a statement that the 11 charges stem from allegations that Eastman assisted Trump with a strategy — not supported by facts — to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 election by obstructing the count of electoral votes of certain states.
The office intends to seek Eastman’s disbarment.
Eastman, the former dean of Chapman University law school in Southern California, was one of Trump’s lawyers during the election. He wrote a memo that argued former Vice President Mike Pence could keep Trump in power by overturning the results of the election during a joint session of Congress convened to count electoral votes. Critics have likened that to instructions for staging a coup.
The State Bar said Eastman faces charges that he violated the business and professions code by making false and misleading statements that constitute acts of “moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption.”
Eastman disputes “every aspect” of the charges filed by the State Bar, which are based on his role as counsel to the former president after the election, his attorney, Randall A. Miller, said in a statement.
The State Bar's action “is part of a nationwide effort to use the bar discipline process to penalize attorneys who opposed the current administration in the last presidential election. Americans of both political parties should be troubled by this politicization of our nation’s state bars,” Miller's statement said.
In advising Trump, “Eastman’s assessments were the product of comprehensive research of the law and historical records — including the 12th Amendment and Electoral Count Act — supported by reasonable interpretation of legal and historical precedent, scholarly analysis, and legislative history,” Miller added.
“He was a lawyer, not Rasputin,” Miller said.
The bar disclosed in March that it was investigating Eastman for possible ethics violations.
As the State Bar’s chief trial counsel, Cardona investigates and prosecutes attorney disciplinary matters before the State Bar Court, which can recommend attorneys be either suspended or, in some cases, lose their licenses to practice law. The California Supreme Court ultimately decides what to do.
Eastman has been a member of the California Bar since 1997, according to its website. He was a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and a 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 retired as dean of the Chapman University law school last year after more than 160 faculty members signed a letter calling for the university to take action against him.
In his statement, Cardona said the charges allege that Eastman “violated this duty in furtherance of an attempt to usurp the will of the American people and overturn election results for the highest office in the land — an egregious and unprecedented attack on our democracy."