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Blogs December 4, 2023

The Final Case for John Eastman’s Disbarment

Breaking Down the California Bar’s Closing Brief

Issue Areas

Published December 4, 2023

John Eastman faces 11 disciplinary charges brought by the State Bar for developing a plan to help Donald Trump steal the 2020 presidential election. The evidence presented over 35 days of trial, including testimony from 23 witnesses and more than 400 exhibits, makes clear that Eastman’s plan had no compelling legal or factual support and that he is culpable of all charges. The State Bar Court of California issued a preliminary finding of culpability against Eastman at the close of his defense.

On Dec. 1, each side filed their post-trial briefs, presenting their strongest evidence and arguments one last time. Below are some of the key takeaways from the California Bar’s closing brief, in which the Bar makes the case for Eastman’s disbarment.

Key Takeaways
  1. Eastman conspired with former President Trump to develop and implement an illegal strategy to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Biden on January 6, 2021. The strategy consisted of filing frivolous lawsuits seeking to overturn the election; falsely telling Vice President Pence, legislators in key states, and the public that there was enough fraud and illegality to change the results of the election; and advancing the scheme to submit to Congress illegitimate slates of Trump electors from seven states won by Biden.
  2. Eastman knew his claims that the election was tainted by fraud and illegality lacked credible support. He ignored court decisions and statements by federal and state officials rejecting the claims. Instead, he tried to support his claims using unreliable, unvetted sources, when he knew, or chose to ignore, that they were not experts. During the trial, these “experts” conceded they could not demonstrate that fraud occurred in the 2020 election. In addition, Eastman’s own constitutional law expert testified that he believed Biden won the election “fair and square” and that Pence “was on unassailable ground when he said that he had ‘no right to overturn the election.’”
  3. When it became clear that no court or state legislature would intervene, Eastman proposed that Vice President Pence refuse to count or delay counting the real slates of electoral votes for Biden from seven states. Eastman knew that Pence had no legal authority—or historical precedent to lean on—to support this course of action, but he worked to advance it anyway, even as the Capitol was violently attacked.
  4. Disbarment is warranted because of Eastman’s bad faith and dishonesty in pushing this dangerous and unsupported plan, the significant harm his actions caused to our democratic institutions, and his indifference toward the consequences of his actions. Eastman has not shown any remorse for his misconduct or accepted any responsibility. Instead, he has continued to promote baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
Next Steps

The court has up to 90 days after the post-trial briefs are submitted to make a final ruling on the case, which means a written decision will be issued by Feb. 29, 2024. In the written decision, the court will rule on Eastman’s culpability and make a recommendation on the appropriate sanction. If the court recommends disbarment, it must also: (1) order Eastman to be placed on what’s known as inactive enrollment, making him ineligible to practice law in California, and (2) immediately file with the California Supreme Court a certified copy of its decision, together with the transcript and findings.

If no party seeks a review of the decision, the State Bar Court’s final recommendation is sent to the California Supreme Court within 30 days. The Supreme Court will then accept the disciplinary recommendation, as long as it is consistent with the official standards for attorney sanctions, and it will become a final order of the Supreme Court.

Either party—in this case, Eastman or the California Bar—may petition for review of the State Bar Court’s final ruling, first to the Review Department and then to the California Supreme Court:

  1. A petition for review to the Review Department must be filed within 30 days of the State Bar Court’s decision. The Review Department typically files its recommendation with the California Supreme Court within 90 days after the petition is submitted.
  2. A petition for review to the California Supreme Court must be filed within 60 days after the Review Department’s decision is filed with the Supreme Court. If the California Supreme Court denies the review petition, the recommendation becomes a final order of the Supreme Court.
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