Disciplinary hearing against Trump attorney John Eastman begins in California

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An effort to disbar conservative attorney John Eastman, who devised ways to keep former President Donald Trump in the White House after his defeat in the 2020 election, will begin Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Eastman is expected to spend the day testing before the State Bar of California in a trial that could result in him losing his license to practice law in the state. He faces 11 disciplinary charges stemming from his development of a dubious legal strategy that was aimed at helping Trump stay in power by disrupting the counting of state electoral votes.

The State Bar’s counsel will seek Eastman’s disbarment during a hearing before the State Bar Court that’s expected to last at least eight days. If the court finds Eastman capable of the alleged violations, it can recommend a punishment such as suspending or revoking his law license. The California Supreme Court makes the final decision.

Eastman is scheduled to testify in his own defense Tuesday. The proceedings will feature witnesses such as Greg Jacob, a former attorney for then-Vice President Mike Pence who pushed back against Eastman’s plan to have Pence stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.

Eastman was one of Trump’s lawyers during the election. He argued, in a memo, that 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 liked that to instructions for staging a coup.

Eastman violated California’s business and professions code by making false and misleading statements that constitute acts of “moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption,” the State Bar alleges, and in doing so he “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.”

Eastman’s attorney previously said his client disputes “every aspect” of the allegations.

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,” Eastman’s attorney, Randall A. Miller, said in a statement when the charges were announced in January.

Eastman has been a member of the California Bar since 1997, according to its website. He was a law clerk for US 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 in Southern California last year after more than 160 faculty members signed a letter calling for the university to take action against him.

The California State Bar is a regulatory agency and the only court system in the US that is dedicated to attorney discipline.

Eastman’s disciplinary hearing comes as special counsel Jack Smith continues his investigation into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

A federal grand jury in Washington has been meeting behind closed doors for months to hear testimony from witnesses, including Pence, who has publicly described a pressure campaign by Trump aimed at getting him to halt Congress’ certification of the election results.

Federal agents seized Eastman’s cellphone last summer as he was leaving a restaurant, he said in a court filing. That same day, law enforcement officials conducted similar activities around the country as part of its probe.

Since Smith’s appointment in November, he has cast a broad net in demanding interviews and testimony related to fundraising, Trump’s rally that preceded the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, and communications between Trump associates and election officials in battleground states. Eastman spoke at the rally.

In December, Smith subpoenaed local election officials in Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona and Pennsylvania, asking for communications with or involving Trump, his 2020 campaign aids and a list of allies — including Eastman — who were involved in his efforts to try to overturn the results of the election.

The investigation is separate from another probe by Smith into classified documents found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate that led this month to felony charges against Trump. Trump pleaded not guilty last week to 37 felony counts, including conspiracy to obstruct justice.

__

Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin Richer contributed from Boston.