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/.

NEW: States United Democracy Center, Law Forward Outline Legal Risks and Concerns Created by Third-Party Election Reviews in Wisconsin

9.24.2021

Letter to County and Municipal Election Officials Details Potential State and Federal Election Security and Voter Protection Law Violations and the Unreasonable Cost to Wisconsin Taxpayers Created by Bad Faith Election Reviews

Washington, D.C. — The States United Democracy Center and Law Forward released a detailed analysis today outlining the numerous security risks and legal violations implicated by third-party election reviews like the one currently under way in Wisconsin. The analysis comes as Speaker Vos continues his push to review paper ballots, voting machines, and other 2020 election records in Wisconsin. Other efforts, including follow-up to the invalid subpoenas previously issued by Representative Brandtjen, remain possible as well. 

The report details top areas of concern: election security & integrity, improper exercise of authority, good governance & transparency, due process protections, voter protection, invalid legislative purpose, overbreadth, burdensomeness & vagueness, and unreasonable costs to taxpayers. In an open letter to county and municipal election officials sharing the analysis, the two leading election protection and democracy groups urge officials to consider the relevant state and federal laws outlined before formulating any response to requests tied to third-party reviews. 

“As in other states across the country, the third-party investigations into the 2020 election in Wisconsin led by Speaker Vos and Representative Brandtjen implicate state and federal election security and voter protection laws,” said Aaron Scherzer, Senior Counsel at States United Democracy Center. “The 2020 election was free, fair, and secure thanks to the hard work of dedicated local officials in Wisconsin and around the country. As these same officials navigate the post-2020 election landscape—which includes an unprecedented wave of third-party, partisan reviews—it’s critical they understand the legal and security issues at play and remain able to administer elections without partisan interference.”

“The fact is the 2020 election in Wisconsin was fair and accurate. The results reflect the will of Wisconsin voters,” said Jeff Mandell, Lead Counsel and President of Law Forward. “As our analysis suggests, any attempts to undermine those official results via these third-party reviews will likely conflict with established state and federal protections for voters, election officials, and election materials. The blatant waste of taxpayer dollars only adds to the reasons local officials should proceed with caution if asked to turn over election materials or otherwise participate in these bad faith efforts.”

The analysis concludes:

Even now, more than ten months later, legislators in Wisconsin have indicated their intent to conduct vague and murky investigations into the November 2020 election. The lack of clarity and transparency makes it difficult for municipal election officials and Wisconsin taxpayers to have any idea what to expect. At this point, what is clear is that one or more of these investigations could include unprecedented legislative subpoenas that raise novel questions of Wisconsin law. Additionally, the anticipated scope of those subpoenas—if recent political rhetoric and document preservation letters evidently sent by former Justice Gableman are to be believed—may run afoul of established protections that state and federal law provide for voters, election officials, and election materials.

In sum, election officials would be wise to proceed with caution upon receiving any subpoena in connection with investigations of the 2020 General Election. Such subpoenas are almost certain to face significant questions about their validity, both procedurally and substantively. Election officials will also need to weigh their existing legal duties before responding to requests for records or information. 

The bad faith election reviews in Wisconsin are part of a larger trend in states across the country sparked by the conspiracy theory-fueled work of the Cyber Ninjas in Maricopa County, Arizona. States United and Law Forward are national leaders in tracking these 2020 election reviews and convening bipartisan election experts to expose the legal, procedural, and cultural risks to states attempting these operations. Earlier this month, States United released an interested parties memo outlining the key ways in which the election reviews in Wisconsin mirror the problematic Cyber Ninjas effort in Arizona, including the lack of credibility, lack of transparency, cost to taxpayers, the bipartisan opposition, security risks and legal concerns, and lack of public support. 

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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 www.statesuniteddemocracy.org

About Law Forward

Law Forward is a nonprofit law firm focused on protecting and advancing democracy in Wisconsin. We use impact litigation, the administrative process, and public education to protect Wisconsin’s fundamental democratic principles, and revive Wisconsin’s traditional commitment to clean and open government. For more information, visit www.lawforward.org.

Pennsylvania State Officials Sue to Block State Senate Subpoena Seeking Private Voter Information

9.23.2021

Lawsuit Contends State Senate Committee Unlawfully Issued Subpoena That Would Violate Privacy Rights of Millions of Pennsylvanians and Interfere with Right To Vote

Lawsuit Co-Counsel States United: Suit is “Important to Protect the Privacy and the Right to Vote of Pennsylvanians”

HARRISBURG — Citing the prospect of violations of privacy and voting rights, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of State, and the Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth, Veronica Degraffenreid, filed a lawsuit today asking the court to block a subpoena issued by the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee last week. The complaint makes clear that official county audits and nonpartisan experts confirmed that the 2020 General Election and 2021 Municipal elections in the Commonwealth were free, fair, and securely administered. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro brought the case. The States United Democracy Center is acting as pro bono co-counsel in the lawsuit with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

The Senate subpoena seeks, among other things, the driver’s license numbers and partial Social Security Numbers for all registered voters in the Commonwealth. This confidential data would then be given to an unidentified third-party vendor without any known restrictions, and which may have connections to individuals and organizations that have perpetuated some of the most dangerous lies about the 2020 election. The lawsuit argues that the Senate subpoena, if enforced, would violate the right to privacy in the Pennsylvania Constitution and in the Commonwealth’s laws.

“Leaders in the Pennsylvania State Senate have launched an unfounded and unlawful investigation of the 2020 elections—an election marked by historic voter participation and referred to as the most secure election in history,” said Christine P. Sun, Legal Director of the States United Democracy Center. “This lawsuit is an important step to protect the privacy and the right to vote of Pennsylvanians. This subpoena is not a fact-finding mission but rather an attempt to keep the dangerous lies about the 2020 elections alive.”

Additionally, the lawsuit contends the subpoena was not issued for a legitimate legislative purpose; violates privacy and right to vote protections in the Pennsylvania Constitution; and exceeds the Intergovernmental Operations Committee’s authority. Specifically, the lawsuit points to the subpoena requesting information that, if provided, would violate:

  • the right to privacy under Article I, Sections 1 and 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution;
  • the right to free and fair elections under Article I, Section 5 of the Pennsylvania Constitution; and
  • federal law protecting critical infrastructure under 6 U.S.C. § 673.

“It’s deeply disturbing to see Pennsylvania legislators waste taxpayer dollars and risk exposing the personal information of millions, all for political games,” said former Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Co-Chair of the States United Democracy Center. “Legal action is necessary to block anti-voter efforts and to reinforce the free, fair, and secure 2020 election in Pennsylvania. It also underscores the need for bipartisan leadership to push back on the lies—this isn’t a Democrat or a Republican issue, this is an American one.”

The complaint was filed in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. The defendants in the case are Senator Cris Dush, Senator Jake Corman, and the Pennsylvania State Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee.

Today’s legal action is the latest in a series of efforts to push back on the partisan election investigation in Pennsylvania and similar investigations in states across the country. States United is a national leader in challenging bad faith election reviews and convening bipartisan election experts to expose the legal and procedural concerns and risks to our democracy these operations generate.

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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 www.statesuniteddemocracy.org.

NEW LETTER: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s Recent Threat to Dismantle Fulton County Board of Elections Raises Serious Legal Concerns

9.20.2021

Washington, D.C. — Today, States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy, and Law Forward sent a letter to the Georgia State Election Board expressing serious legal concerns regarding Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s recent threat to seek the removal of all five members of the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections (Fulton BRE) based on the County’s selection of Cathy Woolard as Chair of the Fulton BRE. The letter explains that Secretary Raffensperger’s political disagreements with Woolard are an insufficient basis to suspend or remove the Fulton BRE members.

The letter warns that any attempt to seek the suspension or removal of the Fulton BRE members based on Ms. Woolard’s appointment would be contrary to Georgia Senate Bill 202 (S.B. 202). The newly-enacted law requires that specific standards must be satisfied prior to any election official being suspended or removed, none of which are satisfied by the Secretary’s disapproval of Ms. Woolard’s previous political affiliations.

While the Secretary of State does not have any power under S.B. 202 to initiate the process for removing board members, his comments may prove unduly influential. They inject partisanship into the process and have the potential to shape the state’s separate, ongoing review of the Fulton Board of Elections that includes the Secretary of State’s chief counsel as a member of the review panel.

“Though Secretary Raffensperger lacks the power to initiate the process for removing board members under S.B. 202, his threat underscores how the controversial bill could be used to inject partisanship into election administration,” said Ranjana Natarajan, Senior Counsel at the States United Democracy Center. “As Georgia navigates this new election landscape, it’s critical that trusted local election officials remain able to administer elections without partisan interference.”

The Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections is made up of five members: two Democratic and two Republican appointees, and a chair appointed by the County Commission. During the hearing to select Woolard as Chair, both Democrats and Republicans supported her qualifications to serve as chairwoman.

“Undermining the bipartisan selection of Cathy Woolard to serve as Chair of the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections seems to have no legal support. S.B. 202 does not authorize review or removal based on political disagreements,” said Mel Barnes, Staff Counsel at Law Forward. “If S.B. 202 is going to continue to inspire this kind of political theater—it’s deeply concerning and something we all must keep an eye on. The future of our democracy is at stake here.”

Earlier this year, the States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy, and Law Forward released a report, “A Democracy Crisis in the Making,” which analyzed the nationwide trend of partisan state legislatures trying to seize control over election administration. The report put a spotlight on bills like S.B. 202 that increase the potential for partisan interference in our elections.

“S.B. 202 is part of an alarming nationwide trend of state officials attempting to interfere with trusted local election administrators by grabbing power for partisan ends.” said Sara Chimene-Weiss, Counsel with Protect Democracy. “Last week in Georgia, we saw firsthand how some leaders may use the law for partisan games. Even so, any efforts to use it must follow existing law that clearly defines various procedures and terms within it.”

The letter can be found 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 www.statesuniteddemocracy.org

About Protect Democracy

Protect Democracy is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing American democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government. For more information, visit protectdemocracy.org.  

About Law Forward

Law Forward is a nonprofit law firm focused on protecting and advancing democracy in Wisconsin. We use impact litigation, the administrative process, and public education to protect Wisconsin’s fundamental democratic principles, and revive Wisconsin’s traditional commitment to clean and open government. For more information, visit lawforward.org.

6/4 Remembering the Tulsa Race Massacre

This week marked the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre in Oklahoma, when Black Americans and their businesses were the targets of domestic terrorism that led to the murder of countless Black residents. In a speech memorializing the victims of this racist attack, President Joe Biden called on fellow Americans to remember that “this was a massacre—among the worst in our history, but not the only one. And for too long, forgotten by our history.”
 
When it comes to ending systemic racism in this country, there is much work to be done, and that includes ensuring our democracy reflects the will of the people, not just the will of some. President Biden showed he understood this by making the fight to protect and expand the freedom to vote central to his remarks and a top priority for his administration. He announced that Vice President Kamala Harris will take on a voting rights portfolio to make sure  access to the ballot box is protected at all levels of government, including securing the votes in Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
 
All of this is a reminder of both how far we’ve come and how much further we have to go. At the state level, there is progress to celebrate. In Nevada, Governor Steve Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 321 into law, making the Silver State the sixth to pass permanent mail-in voting. Vermont Governor Phil Scott  is likely to sign a similar vote-by-mail expansion bill that would send general election ballots to all active voters in the state.
 
We are continuing to keep our eyes on SB 7 in Texas, following a dramatic end to the legislative session last week. The voter suppression and election interference bill is likely to be a priority in a yet-to-be-determined special session. In Arizona, the more information comes out about the companies involved in the so-called “audit” in Maricopa County, the more concerning the chaotic operation becomes.  We are also monitoring Michigan and Pennsylvania as anti-voter and sham election review efforts are underway in both states.

National Updates

Washington Post: “With voting rights role, Harris takes on weightiest challenge yet as vice president.” By Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Mike DeBonis, and Sean Sullivan. (June 2, 2021)
“According to an aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, Harris emerged from that meeting with a request for Biden: Let me spearhead the administration’s battle against Republican voting restrictions. Now nearly a month later, during an event marking the centennial of the Tulsa race massacre, Biden formally announced Harris’s new portfolio on voting rights—placing the vice president squarely in the middle of a pitched partisan battle being fought at multiple levels of government.”
 
New York Times: “As G.O.P. Blocks Inquiry, Questions on Jan. 6 Attack May Go Unanswered.” By Luke Broadwater. (May 29, 2021)
“After many of the national tragedies we’ve experienced over the last 50 or more years, the response was to have a bipartisan investigation that would lay out the facts in a way that would be definitive,” said Michael Chertoff, who served as homeland security secretary under President George W. Bush in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. “It builds trust. It shows the public at a time of crisis, we can all come together and put the good of the country ahead of partisan interests.”
 
Business Insider: “House committee to hold a public hearing on the January 6 insurrection in the wake of a 4th inspector general flash report.” By Lauren Frias. (June 2, 2021).
“The House Administration Committee will hold another public hearing on the Capitol riot in the wake of a flash report by the inspector general, which the chairwoman said revealed ‘disturbing inadequacies’ in the Capitol Police’s preparation and response to the attack. House Administration Chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren announced Wednesday that the committee will host its fifth hearing on the events of January 6—more than any other congressional committee has held on the matter. The date of the hearing is yet to be set.”
 
NBC News: “New GOP voting laws target more than just voter access.” By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Carrie Dann, and Ben Kamisar. (June 3, 2021)
“Across the country, Republican-controlled state legislatures have done more than pass voting restrictions after losing the 2020 presidential contest. They’ve enacted or drafted provisions that create new election powers, change election administration and punish election officials who don’t perform their duties—which all have the potential of injecting chaos into the counting of the next presidential race. Here are just a few examples.”
 
NPR: “Experts Call It A ‘Clown Show’ But Arizona ‘Audit’ Is A Disinformation Blueprint.” By Miles Parks. (June 3, 2021)
“To Matt Masterson, the review of 2020 ballots from Maricopa County, Ariz., that’s currently underway is ‘performance art’ or ‘a clown show,’ and definitely ‘a waste of taxpayer money.’ But it’s not an audit. ‘It’s an audit in name only,’ says Masterson, a former Department of Homeland Security official who helped lead the federal government’s election security preparations leading up to November’s election. ‘It’s a threat to the overall confidence of democracy, all in pursuit of continuing a narrative that we know to be a lie.’”
 
KJZZ: “Pennsylvania Lawmakers Want To Import Arizona-Style Election Audit.”  By Ben Giles. (June 2, 2021)
Hobbs and election experts like Joanna Lydgate have been warning that the partisan Arizona audit could lead to similar efforts in other states. “Other states should be concerned about this circus coming to them,’ Lydgate said in May.”
 
Washington Post (opinion): “How to get to yes on voting rights reform.” By Jennifer Rubin. (June 3, 2021)
“If the Biden administration and Democrats are going to make good on their promise to use every tool to defend voting rights, they need a deliberate strategy for turning the tide in the Senate and a comprehensive litigation approach. So far, we have not seen either.”

State Updates

Arizona

Arizona Republic: “Who is looking at your ballot? These are the companies involved in the Arizona election recount.” By Ryan Randazzo, Jen Fifield, and Andrew Oxford. (June 3, 2021)
“Cyber Ninjas is not the only company involved in the effort, though. Here’s what we know about the companies that are reviewing or previously reviewed the 2020 election results in Maricopa County.”


Michigan

Detroit News: “Michigan committee advances bills expanding voting ID requirements.” By Craig Mauger.  (June 2, 2021).
“A Michigan committee gave its first approvals Wednesday to proposals in the controversial 39-bill Republican overhaul of the state’s election laws, setting up potential votes in the full Senate in the coming days.”

Nevada

8 News: “Gov. Sisolak signs permanent mail-in voting system into law” By David Charns (June 2, 2021)
Permanent mail-in voting is now the law of the land in Nevada following Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s signature. The governor signed Assembly Bill 321 into law Wednesday, making Nevada the sixth state to have such a system.
The law requires a Nevada voter to opt-out rather than opt-in to receiving a mail-in ballot

Pennsylvania

Wall Street Journal: “Pennsylvania Republicans Call for Election Audit Similar to Arizona’s.” By Alexa Corse.” (June 2, 2021)
“Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers visited an ongoing Republican-ordered audit of 2020 ballots here Wednesday and called for their state to conduct a similar review, the latest sign that political fighting over last year’s election is far from over.”

Texas

Texas Tribune: “Texas’ GOP leadership already at odds over plans for special legislative session.” By Patrick Svitek and Cassandra Pollock. (June 3, 2021)
“Texas’ top Republican leaders are already on a collision course over a special legislative session. Since House Democrats staged a walkout that killed Republicans’ priority elections bill for the regular session, the governor and the leaders of the state House and Senate have diverged notably in interviews about how they are planning for the overtime round.”

Houston Chronicle: “Texas Democrats call on Congress to help fight voting restrictions.” By Benjamin Wermund and Taylor Goldenstein. (June 2, 2021)
“As Texas Democrats drew national attention over the weekend, dramatically killing a massive package of election measures that would have reduced access to the polls, they said they wanted to make a larger point about what they view as Republican efforts to suppress the minority vote.”

Wisconsin

Wisconsin Public Radio: “Elections Commission Report: 13 Instances Of Possible Voter Fraud Referred To Prosecutors From November Election.” By Megan Hart. (June 2, 2021)
“Local clerks in Wisconsin referred 13 allegations of suspected voter fraud to district attorneys in relation to the November 2020 election, according to an annual report from the Wisconsin Elections Commission. That’s out of nearly 3.3 million votes cast in the election.Commissioners approved the document during a meeting Wednesday. State law requires WEC to compile an annual report on election integrity. The latest document includes a total of 41 suspected cases of voter fraud from incidents dating back to 2016.”

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