Bipartisan Legal Experts and the States United Democracy Center File Bar Complaint Against John Eastman

10.4.2021

Complaint: “The available evidence supports a strong case that the State Bar [of California] should investigate whether, in the course of representing Mr. Trump, Mr. Eastman violated his ethical obligations as an attorney by filing frivolous claims, making false statements, and engaging in deceptive conduct.”

Los Angeles, CA — The States United Democracy Center today filed a complaint against California bar member John Eastman for assisting in former President Trump’s attempts to discredit and overturn the 2020 presidential election results. The complaint requests that the State Bar open an investigation into Eastman’s conduct and is supported by 25 bipartisan signatories, including former federal and California state supreme court judges, numerous former Republican officials, leading law professors and the Bush and Obama White House ethics advisors.

The complaint offers strong evidence that the State Bar should investigate whether Eastman violated his obligations as an attorney by filing frivolous claims, making false statements, and engaging in deceptive conduct. Based on publicly available reports, it details Eastman’s actions from Election Day to January 6, 2021, when Congress’ electoral vote count was violently disrupted, and includes his work in the frivolous lawsuit Texas vs. Pennsylvania, his role in helping provoke the pro-Trump crowd at the “Stop the Steal” rally, and his authorship of wildly misleading legal advice to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count lawful votes from numerous states — all with the aim of ultimately delaying the election or throwing it to Trump.

“Across the board, John Eastman’s actions were anti-democratic — from his legal work to promote Trump’s frivolous claims in the Supreme Court, to the dangerous speech he delivered to disillusioned Trump supporters at the National Mall on January 6,” said Joanna Lydgate, CEO of the States United Democracy Center. “There is strong evidence to support an investigation by the State Bar of California.”

“Individuals from every profession should be held to the highest of ethical standards and accountable for their actions. It is essential that policymakers and legal experts from both sides of the aisle stand up and fight against these anti-democratic actions taken by John Eastman and his peers,” said Christine Todd Whitman, Board Co-Chair of the States United Democracy Center and former New Jersey Governor. “This bar complaint is one important step to ensuring our democracy prevails even in the face of unprecedented disinformation and attempts to overturn a free, fair election.”

“The 2020 election was evaluated as the most secure election in history, and the official results stood up against multiple recounts, legitimate audits, and at least 60 legal challenges,” said Ambassador Norm Eisen, Board Co-Chair of the States United Democracy Center. “Yet enablers like John Eastman continued to incessantly and baselessly promote Trump’s Big Lie — a lie that led to a violent insurrection. States United is committed to holding these individuals accountable; our democracy depends on it.”

Key excerpts from the complaint include:

“There is no doubt that Mr. Eastman’s memoranda were wrong in their core claim that the Constitution gave Mr. Pence unquestioned and unreviewable authority to declare the Electoral Count Act and Concurrent Resolution unconstitutional and to refuse to count or delay the counting of the ‘swing state’ Electoral College vote certificates, even though those certificates were proper in form, had withstood all timely legal challenges, and were not opposed by any valid competing slate of electors. Other lawyers who looked at the question — many of them stalwart conservatives and Trump supporters — believed that that advice was absolutely wrong.

“Mr. Eastman’s advice, however, was not simply wrong — it was false or deceptive, in multiple respects. First, it rested on factual statements that were false or misleading, including the falsehoods that there were competing slates of electors and that there existed outcome-determinative fraud. Mr. Eastman also misleadingly omitted the fact that virtually every timely filed claim challenging the ‘swing state’ election results had failed. … 

“While a finding that unethical conduct caused harm is not required to support professional discipline, it is surely relevant here that Mr. Eastman’s conduct caused substantial harm and threatened to cause even more. Mr. Eastman’s conduct caused harm because it was intended to, and did, further Mr. Trump’s false narrative that in 2020 American political and judicial institutions at both the state and federal levels failed to ensure a free and fair election — when in fact those institutions did just that (even while conducting an election during a global pandemic). The damage of that corrosive lie to our collective life is incalculable. But the harm that Mr. Eastman’s conduct sought, but failed, to achieve — the jettisoning of those lawful results was far greater. Mr. Eastman’s conduct in seeking that outcome deserves the most searching of investigations, and, if the case outlined above is sustained, substantial professional discipline.”

This bar complaint against John Eastman is the latest action taken by States United and other legal experts to hold democracy violators accountable for their contributions to the January 6 insurrection. Learn more here.

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About the States United Democracy Center The States United Democracy Center is a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections. We focus on connecting state officials, law enforcement leaders, and pro-democracy partners across America with the tools and expertise they need to safeguard our democracy. For more information, visit https://statesuniteddemocracy.org/.