Ex-Trump lawyer Eastman faces potential disbarment as ethics trial winds down
A California state judge is soon set to rule whether former President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer John Eastman should lose his law license, capping a disciplinary trial held over five months.
Judge Yvette Roland on Thursday issued a preliminary finding of culpability against Eastman, who is accused of violating attorney ethics rules when he tried to help Trump undo Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Eastman denies wrongdoing.
The trial, which first began in June, was due to wrap up on Friday. Roland’s preliminary ruling allows state bar prosecutors to present “aggravating” evidence to support disbarment, a bar spokesperson said. Eastman’s unproven voter fraud claims led to harassment of election officials and undermined public trust in election results, bar prosecutors have alleged.
“Our office received lots of threatening and harassing messages in the aftermath of the 2020 election,” Sambo (Bo) Dul, a former lawyer for the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, testified on Friday. Dul is now general counsel to Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs.
The culpability finding “marks a major milestone in the state bar’s pursuit of accountability,” States United Democracy Center, a nonpartisan policy group that filed a disciplinary complaint against Eastman in 2021, said in a statement.
The case is still not over. Both sides will file written closing arguments by Nov. 22. Roland, who sits on California’s State Bar Court, will then have 90 days to issue her ruling, which is appealable.
The California Supreme Court has the final say on all disciplinary matters.
Eastman was separately indicted in August on criminal charges in Fulton County, Georgia, for trying to overthrow the 2020 election there. Eastman, who was charged in the criminal case alongside Trump and additional former lawyers to the ex- president, pleaded not guilty in September.
A former law professor at Chapman University in California, Eastman drafted legal memos suggesting then-Vice President Mike Pence could refuse to accept electoral votes from several swing states when Congress convened to certify the 2020 vote count. Pence rebuffed his arguments, saying he did not have legal authority.
Eastman faces 11 counts of attorney ethics violations, including misleading courts and making false public statements about voter fraud in the 2020 election. His strategy was “completely unsupported by historical precedent or law, and contrary to our values as a nation,” state bar prosecutor Duncan Carling said at the start of the disciplinary trial in June.
Eastman has consistently defended his legal theories throughout the trial and argued they were advanced in good faith. He has contended that the allegations of voter fraud put the 2020 election in “uncharted territory.”
During the trial he questioned statements made by election officials that there was no voter fraud in the states Biden won. He made unproven election fraud claims at a rally outside the White House on Jan. 6, 2021.
After that rally, Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol and delayed the congressional certification of the election.