Judge recommends Trump election lawyer John Eastman is disbarred

‘Eastman failed to uphold his primary duty of honesty and breached his ethical obligations by presenting falsehoods to bolster his legal arguments,’ judge writes

Gustaf Kilander
Washington DC
Thursday 28 March 2024 16:33 GMT
Trump lawyer John Eastman should be disbarred, judge

A California judge has recommended that one of the architects behind former President Donald Trump’s election takeover scheme, attorney John Eastman, be disbarred.

In a scathing 128-page opinion, Judge Yvette Roland argued that Mr Eastman’s law licence be revoked after months of testimony and arguments about his legal theories. She found that he violated ethics rules and possibly the law.

Mr Eastman is set to appeal the decision to a panel of judges, the following step being taking the matter to the State Supreme Court. During his appeal, he cannot practise law in California.

“Eastman failed to uphold his primary duty of honesty and breached his ethical obligations by presenting falsehoods to bolster his legal arguments,” she wrote of his efforts to claim that Mr Trump had the election stolen from him because of fraud.

“In sum, Eastman exhibited gross negligence by making false statements about the 2020 election without conducting any meaningful investigation or verification of the information he was relying upon,” she added.

“Given the serious and extensive nature of Eastman’s unethical actions, the most severe available professional sanction is warranted to protect the public and preserve the public confidence in the legal system,” Judge Roland wrote in her opinion.

John Eastman sits in Fulton Superior Court in Atlanta during a hearing in January 2023 (Getty Images)

She noted that Mr Eastman attempted to argue that he believed the lie that the election had been stolen via fraud, but she rejected that argument.

“Eastman cannot avoid culpability through his willful blindness—willful blindness that is tantamount to Eastman’s actual knowledge that the allegations regarding hidden ballots were false,” she said.

The judge slammed Mr Eastman’s conduct and his unwillingness to show remorse. She found that he was aware that his claims of fraud were weak, even as he filed legal arguments for Mr Trump, including a Supreme Court brief.

Judge Roland outlined Mr Eastman’s part in attempting to overturn the 2020 election, going all the way from his initial lawsuits to his attempt to get Republican state legislatures to send alternate electors to Congress. She wrote that throughout this process, Mr Eastman ignored evidence that didn’t fit with his narrative and accepted fraud claims without doing any due diligence.

State bar investigators brought 11 charges against Mr Eastman – Judge Roland found him guilty of 10. The counts included misleading courts, a lack of candour, and working with Mr Trump to try to stop the transfer of power to the administration of President Joe Biden.

“Eastman conspired with President Trump to obstruct a lawful function of the government of the United States; specifically, by conspiring to disrupt the electoral count on January 6, 2021,” Judge Roland wrote.

An attorney for Mr Eastman, Randall Miller, said his client still thinks his 2020 actions were “based on reliable legal precedent, prior presidential elections, research of constitutional text, and extensive scholarly material,” according to Politico. He added that Mr Eastman has been criminally charged in Georgia and now is unable to pay for his defence by working as a lawyer.

“Any reasonable person can see the inherent unfairness of prohibiting a presumed-innocent defendant from being able to earn the funds needed to pay for the enormous expenses required to defend himself, in the profession in which he has long been licensed,” Mr Miller said, according to the outlet.

“That is not justice and serves no legitimate purpose to protect the public,” he added.

Judge Roland wrote in her lengthy opinion that “Eastman has exhibited an unwillingness to acknowledge any ethical lapses regarding his actions, demonstrating an apparent inability to accept responsibility”.

“This lack of remorse and accountability presents a significant risk that Eastman may engage in further unethical conduct, compounding the threat to the public,” she argued.

In Georgia, Mr Eastman has been charged alongside Mr Trump and others in the racketeering case in which they face allegations that they worked to overturn the results in the state.

While he was identified in the Washington DC indictment against Mr Trump on the federal level, he wasn’t named – he was one of six unnamed and unindicted co-conspirators working with Mr Trump to try to get him a second term despite losing the 2020 election.

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