(CN) — The State Bar of California filed 11 disciplinary charges against Orange County attorney John Eastman on Thursday, arising from his efforts to help overturn the results of the 2020 election in order to allow then-President Donald Trump to remain in office.
The state bar will also seek to disbar Eastman, stripping him of his license to practice law.
"There is nothing more sacrosanct to our American democracy than free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power,” said Chief Trial Counsel George Cardona. “For California attorneys, adherence to the U.S. and California constitutions is their highest legal duty. The notice of disciplinary charges alleges that Mr. 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 — for which he must be held accountable.”
He added: "This action poses a threat to the ability of controversial clients or causes to have the kind of zealous legal representation that our adversarial system of justice requires."
Eastman wrote two memos laying out a justification and strategy for denying and reversing the results of the election. In a six-page memo written on Jan. 3, 2021, days before Biden's election was scheduled to be certified by Congress, Eastman argued there had been “outright fraud” through “electronic manipulation of voting tabulation machines.” He added: “[T]his Election was Stolen by a strategic Democrat plan to systematically flout existing election laws for partisan advantage.”
In their notice of disciplinary charges, state bar lawyers wrote, "By including these false and misleading statements as a basis for the alternative legal strategies proposed in the six-page memo, respondent committed an act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption."
In both memos, Eastman urged then-Vice President Mike Pence to either delay the election's certification or take actions to reverse the results. State bar lawyers wrote Eastman "knew, or was grossly negligent in not knowing, that the courses of action he proposed to Pence in the two- and six-page memos were contrary to and unsupported by the historical record, and contrary to and unsupported by established legal authority and precedent, including the Electoral Count Act and the 12th Amendment."
Eastman repeated many of his claims about election fraud during a speech at the "Save America" march on Jan. 6, 2021, shortly before an angry mob invaded the Capitol building. Of this speech, the notice of disciplinary charges says:
"By telling the crowd of protesters, from a position of authority as a professor and purported 'preeminent constitutional scholar,' that fraud had occurred in the election, that dead people had voted, that electronic voting machines had been used to fraudulently alter the election results, that Pence had authority to delay the counting of votes, and that Pence did not deserve to be in office if he did not delay the counting of votes, respondent made false and misleading statements that contributed to provoking the crowd to assault and breach the Capitol in an effort to intimidate Pence and prevent the electoral count from proceeding, when such harm was foreseeable, and thereby committed an act of moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption.
"No reasonable attorney with expertise in constitutional or election law would conclude that Pence was legally authorized to take the actions that respondent proposed."
Eastman was a longtime Chapman University professor and former dean of its law school. The House of Representatives' Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol subpoenaed the school to obtain Eastman's emails. Eastman sued the committee to keep the emails private, arguing that they fell under attorney-client privilege, but a federal judge sided with the committee.
One email in particular was singled out for disclosure because, the judge ruled, it fell under the "crime-fraud exception," since it included a draft of a memo recommending that Pence reject electors from certain contested states on Jan. 6.
"This may have been the first time members of President Trump’s team transformed a legal interpretation of the Electoral Count Act into a day-by-day plan of action," U.S. District Judge David Carter wrote in his ruling. "The draft memo pushed a strategy that knowingly violated the Electoral Count Act, and Dr. Eastman’s later memos closely track its analysis and proposal. The memo is both intimately related to and clearly advanced the plan to obstruct the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021. Because the memo likely furthered the crimes of obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States, it is subject to the crime-fraud exception and the court orders it to be disclosed."
Eastman's lawyer Randall Miller defended his client in a statement.
"The foundation of any engagement is that the lawyer shall protect the client’s interests, at every turn. This is includes raising all viable options. The attorney’s role is as an adviser, the client as the decider," Miller said, adding, "He was a lawyer, not Rasputin.”Follow @hillelaron
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