Judge Recommends John Eastman Be Disbarred, and Pay a Sanction of $10,000, for His Conduct Seeking to Subvert the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election

From the 128-page opinion:

As an initial matter, the court rejects Eastman’s contention that this disciplinary proceeding and Eastman’s resultant discipline is motivated by his political views or his representation of President Trump or President Trump’s Campaign. Rather, Eastman’s wrongdoing constitutes exceptionally serious ethical violations warranting severe professional discipline. As stated by Earl C. and others, “there is no right way to do the wrong thing.” As counsel for President Trump during a disputed presidential election, Eastman made multiple patently false and misleading statements in court filings, in public remarks heard by countless Americans and to others regarding the conduct of the 2020 presidential election and Vice President Pence’s authority to refuse to count or delay counting properly certified slates of electoral votes on January 6, 2021. These statements, made with varying degrees of intent, were improperly aimed at casting doubt on the legitimate election results and support for the baseless claim that the presidency was stolen from his client—all while relying on his credentials as an attorney and constitutional scholar to lend credibility to his unfounded claims.

Even after courts in key states authoritatively rejected unsupported allegations of outcome-determinative fraud in the election, Eastman persisted in proposing a legally unsustainable strategy. From November 2020 forward, as his many legal challenges failed, Eastman substantively advanced the false narrative that widespread fraud had tainted the election, and that Vice President Pence possessed the power to contravene the constitutional
electoral process. His demonstrated intent was to foment loss of public confidence in the integrity of the 2020 election and persuade Vice President Pence to refuse to count or delay the counting of electoral votes on January 6. Most of his misconduct occurred squarely within the course and scope of Eastman’s representation of President Trump and culminated with a shared plan to obstruct the lawful function of the government.

While attorneys have a duty to advocate zealously for their clients, they must do so within the bounds of ethical and legal constraints. Eastman’s actions transgressed those ethical limits by advocating, participating in and pursuing a strategy to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election that lacked evidentiary or legal support. Vigorous advocacy does not absolve Eastman of his professional responsibilities around honesty and upholding the rule of law. While his actions are mitigated by his many years of discipline-free practice, cooperation, and prior good character, his wrongdoing is substantially aggravated by his multiple offenses, lack of candor and indifference. 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….

The scale and egregiousness of Eastman’s unethical actions far surpasses the misconduct at issue in Segretti. Unlike Segretti whose offenses occurred outside his role as an attorney, Eastman’s wrongdoing was committed directly in the course and scope of his representation of
President Trump and the Trump Campaign. This is an important factor, as it constitutes a fundamental breach of an attorney’s core ethical duties. Additionally, while the Segretti court found compelling mitigation based on his expressed remorse and recognition of his wrongdoing, no such mitigating factor is present with Eastman. To the contrary, 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. Given the greater magnitude of Eastman’s transgressions compared to Segretti and the heightened risk of future misconduct from his complete denial of wrongdoing, imposing greater discipline than in Segretti is appropriate to protect the public and uphold public confidence in the legal system. Guided by the standards, case law, and the purposes of attorney discipline, the court recommends that Eastman be disbarred.

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