Former Chapman University law school dean John Eastman — who urged Vice President Mike Pence to not count electoral votes from states Joe Biden narrowly won so that Donald Trump might remain president — has been under investigation since September by the State Bar of California.
The Bar’s investigation, announced Tuesday, March 1, focuses on whether Eastman “engaged in conduct in violation of California law and ethics rules governing attorneys following and in relation to the November 2020 presidential election.”
If the Bar concludes that Eastman committed any violation, his law license could be suspended or revoked.
“A number of individuals and entities have brought to the State Bar’s attention press reports, court filings, and other public documents detailing Mr. Eastman’s conduct,” said the Bar’s Chief Trial Counsel George Cardon in a prepared statement.
“We want to thank those who took the time to bring to our attention this information, which serves as the starting point for our investigation. We will be proceeding with a single State Bar investigation in which we will continue to gather and analyze relevant evidence and go wherever it leads us.”
Details of the investigation, however, won’t be made public to give the process “the greatest chance of success,” the Bar said.
Neither Eastman, nor his attorneys, returned requests for comment by deadline. But Eastman’s Christian fundraising site, where he seeks to raise $200,000 for legal and other expenses, says he’s the target of “hard core leftist activists who have filed a bar complaint against him, seeking to have him disbarred and thereby lose his source of income.”
Eastman’s fundraising site also asserts that he has been subpoenaed “by the hyper-partisan January 6 Committee in the House of Representatives, which is targeting anyone involved in election integrity efforts as well as those engaged in freedom of speech and association to voice their objections to illegality in the conduct of the election. Responding to both of these attacks has required Dr. Eastman to hire outside counsel, at significant cost to himself.”
Eastman penned memos exploring various ways that it would be legal for Pence to halt the peaceful transfer of power to President Joe Biden on Jan. 6, 2021. In an Oval Office meeting with Trump days before the violence Eastman tried to convince Pence his plan was legal, but Pence rejected it.
The former Orange County law professor has become a political touchstone, championed by some as a freedom fighter and denounced by others as the architect of a failed coup.
“All we were trying to do was get a public airing of the illegalities in the election,” Eastman said on the Kim Monson show Feb. 11. “The propaganda to shut down the truth is just stunning. It’s the kind of thing one would expect to see out of Stalinist Russia. Yet it’s happening in this country on a daily basis.”
A State Bar investigation can take time to unfold. Discipline matters are investigated and prosecuted by the State Bar’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel, acting on the public’s behalf. If the Chief Trial Counsel files charges, the State Bar Court oversees disciplinary proceedings, rules on whether an attorney has committed professional misconduct, and may recommend that an attorney be suspended or disbarred. That recommendation goes to the California Supreme Court, which decides whether to impose the recommended discipline.
An attorney has a right to a fair hearing and must be presumed innocent of any misconduct warranting discipline until any charges have been proven in a proceeding, the Bar said.
Another lawyer with ties to Trump, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has faced a similar process in New York. In June, a New York state court suspended Giuliani’s law license after ruling that Giuliani made “demonstrably false and misleading statements” while fighting the results of the 2020 election.