What Accountability Looks Like

An architect of the plot to overturn the 2020 could be disbarred.

Published: 1.27.23

Accountability is one of the strongest tools we have to prevent another attack like Jan. 6. When people step outside the bounds of our democracy, they must face consequences — not just in the courts but within their professions.

The State Bar of California this week took a major step toward accountability for John Eastman, who helped craft a legal strategy to try to overturn the 2020 election on behalf of then–President Trump.

The state bar unveiled 11 disciplinary charges against Eastman and said it would seek to have him disbarred.

George Cardona, the California Bar’s chief trial counsel, said Eastman violated his “highest legal duty,” adherence to the U.S. and California Constitutions, in “an attempt to usurp the will of the American people and overturn election results for the highest office in the land.”

“There is nothing more sacrosanct to our American democracy than free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power,” Cardona said.

After the 2020 election, Eastman devised strategy, drafted legal memos, and advised President Trump and Vice President Pence with the purpose of obstructing the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021.

As the California Bar’s Notice of Disciplinary Charges spells out, Eastman knew, or should have known, that his efforts were not supported by the facts or the law. And on Jan. 6, 2021, his lies helped provoke the crowd that later attacked the Capitol.

States United first filed an ethics complaint against Eastman with the California Bar in October 2021, and continued to file supplemental material as more information came to light about Eastman’s role in trying to overturn the election.

Accountability shouldn’t stop here. And as we said in a letter to the House January 6 Select Committee last year, other lawyers who took part in the efforts to overturn the 2020 election should face consequences.

We encourage other state bars to follow the strong example set by the California Bar. John Eastman betrayed our democracy and repeatedly, willfully violated his professional duty to uphold our Constitution. He should never be allowed to practice law again.

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State of the States

In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said “decisions are imminent” in the criminal investigation into attempts to overturn the state’s 2020 election results. Willis argued at a hearing this week that a special grand jury’s final report on the investigation should be kept under seal for now. “The state understands the media’s inquiry and the world’s interest, but we have to be mindful of protecting future defendants’ rights,” she told Judge Robert McBurney. News organizations argued that the report should be made public. McBurney did not immediately rule on the matter and promised there would be “no rash decisions.” The special grand jury heard from dozens of witnesses about attempts to reverse former President Trump’s loss in Georgia. Willis will determine whether to seek criminal charges following the special grand jury’s report.

In The News

  • The State Bar of California announced 11 disciplinary charges against John Eastman and will seek to have him disbarred for his role in trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election on behalf of former President Trump. States United first filed an ethics complaint against Eastman with the California Bar in October 2021.
  • A jury in Washington, D.C., convicted four members of the Oath Keepers of seditious conspiracy for their roles in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Stewart Rhodes, the group’s founder, and Kelly Meggs, the leader of its Florida chapter, were convicted of the same charge in November. All six are awaiting sentencing.
  • Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes plans to redirect her office’s Election Integrity Unit to focus on defending the freedom to vote and protecting election officials and election workers. Under Mayes’s predecessor, the unit focused on voter fraud and “found scant evidence of it occurring in Arizona,” Mayes told The New York Times.
Image information: John Eastman appears on screen during a hearing of the House January 6 Select Committee last year. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)