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John Eastman faces disbarment proceedings in California over effort to reverse 2020 election

Eastman, Donald Trump's former lawyer, faces disciplinary charges alleging engagement in a plot to push a far-fetched legal strategy arguing that then-Vice President Mike Pence could overturn Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
John Eastman at a news conference in Boulder, Colo.
A State Bar of California official said former Trump lawyer John Eastman's conduct was "an egregious and unprecedented attack on our democracy" for which "he must be held accountable." Andy Cross / The Denver Post via Getty Images file

John Eastman, the Trump-allied lawyer who created a memo arguing that then-Vice President Mike Pence could overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election win, is set to face disciplinary hearings starting Tuesday in Los Angeles.

The counsel for the State Bar of California is asking a court to revoke Eastman’s license to practice law in the state. Eastman faces 11 disciplinary charges alleging he engaged in a plot to push a far-fetched legal strategy for Pence to overturn Biden’s victory as a joint session of Congress counted the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, 2021. Prosecutors alleged that Eastman made false and misleading statements with his baseless claims of widespread election fraud, including his remarks at the “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse shortly before the Capitol attack.

The disciplinary hearings are expected to last at least eight days. The court will determine whether Eastman’s conduct qualifies for a recommendation of a suspension or a revocation of his law license. The fate of Eastman’s law license then falls into the hands of the California Supreme Court.

The State Bar announced an ethics investigation into Eastman’s conduct in March last year. Eastman faces multiple allegations that he violated the state’s business and professions code by making false and misleading statements that constitute acts of “moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption.” Eastman therefore “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 — for which he must be held accountable,” the State Bar's chief trial counsel, George Cardona, said in a release in January. 

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,” Eastman’s attorney, Randall A. Miller, said in a statement when the charges were announced in January, according to The Associated Press. "Americans of both political parties should be troubled by this politicization of our nation’s state bars."

Eastman was admitted to the California Bar in 1997, according to the State Bar’s portal. He was a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and is a founding director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, a law firm affiliated with the Claremont Institute, a conservative California think tank.

Eastman was also the dean of the Chapman University law school in Southern California. He retired last year after more than 160 faculty members signed a letter demanding that the university take action against him. Days after the Capitol attack, faculty members wrote a letter to the editor at the Los Angeles Times condemning Eastman’s actions on Jan. 6, which they said “helped incite a riot against the U.S. government,” and they called for his ouster from the university.