Former Chapman Law School Dean Faces Disbarment

SANTA ANA (CNS) - The state Bar of California announced Thursday it has filed a disciplinary complaint against former Chapman University law school dean John Eastman, accusing him of pushing bogus claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

The complaint alleges Eastman promoted false and misleading claims of election fraud, including at his appearance before a crowd that included many protesters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The complaint seeks to disbar Eastman.

"There is nothing more sacrosanct to our American democracy than free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power," said George Cardona, the bar's chief trial counsel. "For California attorneys, adherence to the U.S. and California Constitutions is their highest legal duty. The Notice of Disciplinary Charges alleges that Mr. Eastman violated this duty in furtherance of an attempt to usurp the will of the American people and overturn election results for the highest office in the land -- an egregious and unprecedented attack on our democracy -- for which he must be held accountable."

Eastman, who planned to hold a virtual news conference Friday morning with former U.S. Attorney Edwin Meese and other judges and attorneys, issued a statement with his attorney, Randall A. Miller, saying Eastman "disputes every aspect" of the complaint.

Eastman, while working as an attorney for former President Donald Trump, authored two legal memos purporting to validate a plan to block or postpone the certification of President Joe Biden's election. Eastman argued that Vice President Mike Pence could at least postpone a certification of the votes while Trump supporters worked to replace Biden electors.

The complaint points out that multiple officials, including Trump's U.S. Attorney William Barr, said publicly that there was no evidence of the widespread election fraud touted by Trump's supporters. The complaint also notes how many of the lawsuits seeking to overturn the election results were all dumped for lack of any evidence and characterized as speculative.

The complaint also accused Eastman of helping to provoke the crowd gathering before Congress certified the vote Jan. 6.

Eastman's statement said he "determined that, in light of the acknowledged illegality and serious allegations of fraud, one possible option was for the vice president to accede to requests from numerous state legislators to postpone certification for a brief period of time to allow the claims of fraud and illegality to be assessed by the state legislatures. Dr. Eastman's assessments were the product of comprehensive research of the law and historical records -- including the 12th Amendment and Electoral Count Act, supported by reasonable interpretation of legal and historical precedent, scholarly analysis and legislative history."

Miller said, "Any lawyer engaged to provide his or her legal assessment in a dynamic, consequential, and often emotional arena should be deeply troubled by the notion that a licensing authority (bar) can take their license if they do not like the lawyer's advice, or find the advocacy distasteful."

Miller said Eastman acted ethically in his representation of Trump.

"Dr. Eastman was one of dozens of advisers to the president. He was a lawyer, not Rasputin," Miller said.

Eastman was a central figure in the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 violence. He sued to stop the select committee from gaining access to thousands of his Chapman University emails.

Eastman was successful in shielding some emails from the investigators, but U.S. District Judge David O. Carter ruled that Eastman should turn over hundreds of emails due to Carter's finding that Eastman and Trump likely committed criminal fraud in attempting to block certification of the election.

According to the bar's complaint, Eastman's "legal theory to support his proposed courses of action was based on misinterpreted historical sources, misinterpreted law review articles, and law review articles which he knew, or was grossly negligent in not knowing, were themselves fundamentally flawed, such that no reasonable attorney with expertise in constitutional or election law would conclude that Pence was legally authorized to take the actions (Eastman) proposed."

The complaint adds that in an "email exchange with another individual in early October 2020, (Eastman) himself had recognized that these courses of action were improper."

When Eastman could not convince Pence and his advisers to block the electors, he switched to delaying the certification, according to the bar. Eastman "conceded that the positions he was urging Pence to take were contrary to historical practice, violated several provisions of statutory law, and would likely be unanimously rejected by the Supreme Court," according to the bar.

In Eastman's address to the crowd before the insurrection, he said, "We know there was fraud, traditional fraud that occurred. We know that dead people voted."

The bar complaint alleges that Eastman "knew, or was grossly negligent in not knowing, that, as an attempt to cast doubt on the results of the election, this statement was false and misleading, in that, as (Eastman) knew at the time, there was no evidence upon which a reasonable attorney would rely of fraud in any state election, involving deceased voters or otherwise, which could have affected the outcome of the election."

The bar noted that though Trump claimed 5,000 ballots in Georgia were cast by dead voters, the Georgia State Election Board "found just four such votes, all of which had been returned by relatives."

The bar also faulted Eastman for claiming Dominion electronic voting machines were manipulated.

"In fact, (Eastman) knew that on or about Nov. 12, 2020, the Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committees issued a joint statement which stated that the `2020 presidential election was the most secure in American history' and `there was no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,"' according to the complaint.

After the mob stormed the Capitol, Eastman continued to push for Pence to delay the certification for 10 days "to allow the legislatures to finish their investigations, as well as to allow a full forensic audit of the massive amount of illegal activity that has occurred here," according to the complaint. Pence, however, announced at 3:42 a.m. that the Electoral College votes were counted and certified, electing Biden.

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