SANTA ANA (CNS) - A federal judge today ruled that he will review 111 emails the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol is seeking from former Chapman University law professor John Eastman.
It is the first step toward whether any of the emails will be sent to the committee. U.S. District Judge David O. Carter ruled that he will determine which emails should be handed over to the committee.
Carter said he ``notes that there is a `considerably lower threshold for conducting in camera review than for fully disclosing documents,''' as he added that ``reading the emails does not mean that the court will ultimately require disclosure.''
Carter said when he is done reading the emails he ``will determine for each document whether any privilege existed, whether that privilege was waived, and whether any exceptions apply.''
The emails were written between Jan. 4-7 on Eastman's Chapman University email account. Chapman officials were willing to turn over all of the former professor's emails, which amounted to about 30,000, but Eastman sued to block the handing over of the emails to the select committee.
The select committee has argued that it needs the emails and revealed that it was investigating the possibility that former President Donald Trump -- with Eastman's help -- was in charge of a criminal conspiracy to overturn the election of President Joe Biden.
The most controversial path toward obtaining access to the emails is through a ``crime fraud exemption'' when it is shown that the sought-after documents cannot fall under the privacy guaranteed by attorney-client privilege or work-product exemptions, which covers material used to prepare litigation.
Carter's ruling was expected as both sides agreed to the judge doing an ``in camera,'' or private review of the emails at a hearing on Tuesday.
Eastman's attorney, Charles Burnham, said he did not think the emails in question would show any evidence of an intent to commit criminal fraud in seeking to overturn the 2020 presidential election result.
Attorney Douglas Letter, who represents the select committee, emphasized that there is a substantial need for the emails in what he said was one of the most important investigations in the history of Congress.
Eastman was forced out of Chapman when faculty and students objected to his attendance at a rally before the violent insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and his work on behalf of Trump's campaign to undo the election results in the courts with claims of fraud that were repeatedly rejected.
Eastman is also facing a state bar ethics investigation related to his work for Trump.