Editor’s Note – This essay was originally published by the Federalist on October 25, 2023. The State Bar of California is attempting to disbar Donald Trump’s 2020 election lawyer, John Eastman, in an effort by woke Leftists to intimidate conservative attorneys and discourage them from taking on Republican-backed election challenges. Eastman advised Vice President Mike Pence to delay counting electoral votes for 7-10 days in order to give legislatures of swing states (all of which had certified Biden electors) time to determine whether Biden electors should, in fact, have been certified.
Eastman’s theory for delaying the electoral count, although “bold”, as Eastman himself described it in Tom Klingenstein’s three-part interview series, is defensible and wholly appropriate for a lawyer who has an ethical obligation to defend his or her client zealously. Attempts to disbar lawyers who represent people who are deemed enemies of the regime is par for the course for the woke regime, a totalitarian regime that attempts to shut up dissenters.
After having his phone seized by the FBI, enduring harassment from House Democrats’ J6 Committee, and getting indicted by a corrupt Fulton County district attorney, constitutional scholar John Eastman has once again found himself the target of Democrats’ crusade to weaponize the legal system against their political opponents.
Over the past several weeks, prosecutors representing the State Bar of California (SBC) have been working in state court to strip Eastman of his ability to practice law and, effectively, destroy his livelihood. In January, the SBC announced it was charging Eastman for advising former President Donald Trump over the latter’s legal challenges to the 2020 election results. This announcement came nearly a year after the agency revealed it had been investigating Eastman for potential “violation[s] of California law and ethics rules governing attorneys.”
(The bar’s investigation began a month before the States United Democracy Center, a leftist legal group founded by a former Obama White House official, filed a bar complaint asking the SBC to investigate Eastman over his conduct in the 2020 election.)
The SBC’s ongoing trial against Eastman is just one facet of Democrats’ weaponization of the legal system. In July 2022, an organization known as the 65 Project also filed a complaint with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking Eastman’s disbarment. Named after the 65 legal challenges filed by Trump and Republicans over the 2020 election results, the 65 Project was founded with the purpose of deterring “right-wing legal talent from signing on to any future GOP efforts to overturn elections.”
Staffed by highly partisan Democrats, the group is being advised by David Brock, a Hillary Clinton acolyte and founder of Media Matters for America, a nonprofit that “fact-checks” conservative media outlets. While speaking with Axios about the 65 Project last year, Brock made clear the group’s explicit goal is to “not only bring the grievances in the bar complaints” against conservative lawyers who signed onto Republicans’ 2020 election challenges, “but [to] shame them and make them toxic in their communities and in their firms.”
In other words, the group specifically targets lawyers, such as Eastman, who lawfully challenge controversial elections resulting in Democrat victories.
“There is so much wrong here. So much wrong with what they are doing to John, to Jeff Clark, and every lawyer who worked for Trump in 2020 or offered any legal advice or counsel,” Cleta Mitchell, a senior legal fellow at the Conservative Partnership Institute, told The Federalist. Mitchell, who has been friends with Eastman for more than 20 years, advised Trump on his legal challenge to Georgia’s 2020 election results.
In its Notice of Disciplinary Charges filed earlier this year, the SBC charged Eastman with 11 counts of what they contend are examples of the former president’s lawyer “violat[ing] his obligations as an attorney.” Chief among the bar’s allegations are claims that Eastman provided and engaged in litigation based on and issued remarks promoting “allegations of election fraud that he knew, or was grossly negligent in not knowing, were false.” The bar additionally alleged Eastman “knew, or was grossly negligent in not knowing” his legal advice regarding “the unilateral authority of the Vice President to disregard or delay the counting of electoral votes” was “contrary to and unsupported by the historical record and established legal authority and precedent.”
In a nearly 100-page response to SBC investigators last year, Eastman dispelled the bar’s forgone assertion that he knowingly promoted “false” accusations of 2020 election irregularities. One of the many examples cited by Eastman is the Fulton County Superior Court’s refusal to appoint a judge to oversee Trump’s Georgia lawsuit, the former of which constituted a violation of state law. He also cited the decision by Pennsylvania’s then-Democrat Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar to unilaterally waive the state’s signature verification process for mail-in ballots. As noted by Eastman, Boockvar’s circumvention of the state legislature was (unsurprisingly) upheld by the commonwealth’s Democrat-controlled Supreme Court.
However, these examples are just two of several acts of misconduct documented in the 2020 election. Last year, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled the use of ballot drop boxes during the 2020 contest violated Wisconsin law and prohibited them from further use in future elections. In Michigan, a state judge ruled in March 2021 that Democrat Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson violated state law when she sidestepped the Michigan Legislature with “unilateral orders on absentee voting.” Meanwhile, analyses of data from the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address database indicate there were more illegal votes in Georgia’s 2020 election than Joe Biden’s margin of victory.
And these examples don’t even include the many acts of election interference concocted by the Justice Department, FBI, CIA, Big Tech, and Mark Zuckerberg to sway the election in Biden and Democrats’ favor.
In his response to the SBC, Eastman also disputed the agency’s characterization that he was attempting “to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election” by barring or delaying the counting of “lawful electoral votes.”
“[T]he central issue is more aptly described as whether the electoral votes that had been certified were legally certified after state election officials violated numerous provisions of state election law that had been adopted by the legislatures of the several states at issue, violations that unconstitutionally intruded on the legislatures’ plenary power to direct the manner of choosing electors,” Eastman’s response reads.
Eastman further noted how an internal memo he authored “outlining all of the possible scenarios for the counting of disputed electoral votes” was in fulfillment of his role as “legal advocate, consultant, and adviser” and was “based on several scholarly articles and historical debates addressing the role that the 12th Amendment … assigns to the Vice President in the opening and counting of electoral votes.”
A Rigged Trial
After his trial began in late June, Eastman soon discovered that he wouldn’t just be battling the prosecution to keep his law license but the judge overseeing his case as well.
Presiding over the trial is Judge Yvette Roland, a former civil and commercial lawyer and regular Democrat donor. According to FEC filings, Roland gave over $7,000 to Obama’s 2008 presidential bid and continued contributing to Democrat causes even after becoming a judge in 2014. In 2020, for example, she gave a series of small-dollar donations to ActBlue, a Democrat fundraising platform. More recently, she donated $500 to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2022 reelection campaign.
Throughout the trial, Roland has reportedly appeared very antagonistic towards Eastman and his legal team while at the same time giving preferential treatment to the prosecution. In one instance, Roland allowed the SBC to call witnesses such as Stephen Richer to testify despite having no relevance to the trial. Richer, who serves as Maricopa County, Arizona’s election recorder, regularly attacks conservatives concerned about election integrity issues and oversaw Maricopa’s disastrous and chaotic 2022 midterm elections.
Regarding the trial, not only was Eastman not involved in the post-2020 election litigation in Arizona, but Richer wasn’t even in office when the election occurred.
According to The Arizona Sun Times, Eastman’s legal team pressed Roland about why she was permitting “the SBC’s witnesses like Richer to present one side but not allowing Eastman’s witnesses to testify on the same topic.” While Eastman’s lawyers argued the situation is “quite prejudicial” and only allowed “half the story” to be told, Roland refused to change her mind.
Another notable incident documenting Roland’s bias occurred over the testimony of Garland Favorito, the co-founder of a Georgia-based election integrity group (VOTERGA). Arguing it was too late in the trial, Roland refused a request by Eastman’s team that Favorito be designated as an “expert,” which would make it “easier to get his testimony admitted” and permit him to give his opinion on subjects raised in questioning.
Yet, when Favorito refused to answer certain questions from the prosecution requiring “expert” opinion, Roland reportedly intervened, demanding that Favorito “speculate and provide his opinion numerous times.”
“When cross-examination opened, the first thing that the opposing counsel asked me required an opinion. So, I said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t give an opinion because I was not qualified to do so.’ [And] that infuriated the judge,” Favorito told The Federalist. She “tried to force me to answer questions and give opinions for the opposing counsel. … It was just one of many examples of her bias in the trial.”
Why It Matters
While Eastman’s trial remains ongoing, it isn’t difficult to predict how Roland will rule on the case given her biased behavior thus far. And with California’s judicial system littered with Democrat-appointed judges, it’s likely an appeal of a potentially unfavorable ruling for Eastman would end in the same result. Should it be necessary, an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is possible, according to Favorito, although it’s unclear whether enough justices would agree to take up the case.
At the end of the day, Democrats aren’t attempting to disbar Eastman because they believe his conduct following the 2020 election was illegal or unethical. They’re doing it to neuter Republicans’ willingness to lawfully contest controversial elections.
By making an example out of Eastman, Democrats are hoping to discourage conservative attorneys from taking on future Republican-backed election challenges. After all, why would any fair-minded lawyer stick their neck out to challenge an irregular election if he or she knew they’d face potential disbarment? It’s a strategy designed to instill fear in brilliant legal minds and allow questionable election outcomes to stand, no matter how many possible inconsistencies or acts of unlawful behavior.
“As someone said to me when I was dealing with the attacks on me, ‘Too bad you were representing President Trump. If you’d been representing Osama Bin Laden, you’d get an award,’” Mitchell said. “That’s what’s happening here. John is being pilloried because of who his client is, not by anything he did or did not do [regarding his] theories or legal claims or filings.”