A legal group filed a bar complaint against conservative attorney John Eastman on Thursday claiming he violated legal ethics rules while serving as an attorney for former President Donald Trump.
The complaint largely focuses on what it terms Eastman’s “lobbying” then-Vice President Mike Pence “to disregard the electoral votes cast in six states that had voted for” ultimate President Joe Biden.
Lawyers Defending American Democracy (LDAD) sent the 9-page grievance to the State Bar of California’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel demanding an investigation into Eastman over his work with fellow Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jeffrey Clark. The trio are alleged to have participated in “a carefully orchestrated collective plan to overturn the results” of the 2020 presidential election.
The group says Eastman’s efforts went impermissibly beyond the provision of independent legal advice on behalf of the 45th president.
“As the details emerge on the efforts to reverse the results of the 2020 election, the central role played by lawyers at each stage becomes clear,” LDAD Chairman and co-founder Scott Harshbarger in statement. “The actions by lawyers such as John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani, and Jeffrey Clark plainly appear to have violated the rules of ethics, and it is imperative that our bar disciplinary authorities investigate and hold them accountable after a thorough review of the facts and the applicable law.”
LDAD likened Eastman’s role in the post-election legal landscape to that of Giuiliani’s–and pointed out that the former New York City mayor’s law license has since been suspended in both the Empire State and the District of Columbia. The group, however, stopped short of requesting that Eastman’s law license be similarly suspended in the complaint, instead requesting that the investigation be followed up by the committee imposing “appropriate sanctions.”
But a suspension of Eastman’s law license does appear to be the group’s ultimate aim.
“Mr. Eastman’s legal advice and assertions of election fraud had no basis in fact or law and were intended to perpetuate the presidency of the losing candidate in the election against the will of the voters,” complaint author and former Massachusetts appellate court judge James McHugh added in the press release. “After investigation, if the allegations in this complaint are validated, Mr. Eastman should be suspended from the practice of law or be permanently disbarred.”
The complaint also argues that Eastman’s conduct was an “aggravating circumstance” under California ethics rules that bears upon both the necessity of the investigation and any eventual punishment that results from the requested inquiry.
The complaint explains:
Eastman’s misconduct likely qualify as an “aggravating circumstance” under Rules of Procedure, Title IV, Standard 1.7(b) in view of the “serious harm to . . . the public, the legal system, [and] the profession” that has occurred. Without belaboring the point, the impact of this loss of faith in our electoral process is incalculable (and continuing), and Mr. Eastman and other lawyers have played an essential role in fostering it.
The collaboration among Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Clark, Mr. Eastman and other lawyers leveraged their individual misconduct to increase the damage to our constitutional republic and the legal profession. We strongly urge that Mr. Eastman’s collaboration with those other lawyers in what amounted to an attempted coup is an aggravating factor in his violation of Rule 8(4)(c).
“In the end, Mr. Eastman’s claims that the presidential election results were fraudulent was and is the kind of falsehood that has come to be known as The Big Lie,” the filing continues. “A lie of that kind strikes at the core of our constitutional democracy by undermining the essential public faith in our elections.”
Read LDAD’s full complaint below:
[image via screengrab/Utah Valley University Center for Constitutional Studies]
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