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Judge rules John Eastman should be disbarred over efforts to overturn 2020 election

A California judge on Wednesday recommended disbarring a lawyer at the center of former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

State Bar Judge Yvette Roland found John Eastman culpable on 10 of the 11 counts filed by the California State Bar last year. The state bar sought to strip Eastman’s license to practice law in the state due to his “false and misleading statements” about purported election fraud and his role in “provoking” the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

“In view of the circumstances surrounding Eastman’s misconduct and balancing the aggravation and mitigation, the court recommends that Eastman be disbarred,” Roland wrote in a 128-page decision.

The judge also recommended that Eastman be ordered to pay $10,000 in monetary sanctions to the State Bar of California Client Security Fund.

Eastman’s legal team said he would appeal Wednesday’s ruling, and the case will ultimately end up before the California Supreme Court. In the meantime, the judge ordered Eastman be transferred to inactive status, meaning he won’t be able to practice law.

Roland’s ruling follows a trial last year that lasted more than 30 days, at which Eastman himself testified. Just before the proceedings concluded in November, the judge found Eastman preliminarily culpable. Roland was appointed by Toni Atkins, a Democrat who at the time was Speaker of the California State Assembly.

Eastman spearheaded the legal strategy attempting to subvert the election results in several key 2020 states, including by using slates of alternate electors to swing the election’s outcome in Trump’s favor. The plan also relied on then-Vice President Mike Pence throwing out the real electors for the “fake” ones, with Eastman writing memos that spurred the pressure campaign on Pence.

Roland wrote in her decision that Eastman exhibited an unwillingness to admit to “any ethical lapses” in his behavior.

“This lack of remorse and accountability presents a significant risk that Eastman may engage in further unethical conduct, compounding the threat to the public,” the judge wrote.

Though Roland’s ruling marks a significant legal defeat for Eastman, she did side with him on one of his 11 counts.

The state bar accused Eastman of moral turpitude over his Jan. 6 Ellipse speech, connecting it to the violence later in the day, but the judge dismissed the count after finding the bar “presented no evidence to show that Eastman’s statements contributed to the assault on the Capitol.”

In court filings, Eastman’s lawyers described the disbarment proceedings as “Orwellian,” insisting he was fulfilling his ethical duty to zealously represent Trump’s interests and that he had a First Amendment right to make his public statements at Trump’s Jan. 6 rally and elsewhere.

“Dr. Eastman maintains that his handling of the legal issues he was asked to assess after the November 2020 election was based on reliable legal precedent, prior presidential elections, research of constitutional text, and extensive scholarly material,” Eastman’s legal team said in a statement following the ruling.

“The process undertaken by Dr. Eastman in 2020 is the same process taken by lawyers every day and everywhere – indeed, that is the essence of what lawyers do,” the statement continued.

The state bar insisted that Eastman was fabricating “an illusion of legality to an illegal effort,” demanding he be disbarred.

“Every California attorney has the duty to uphold the constitution and the rule of law,” Chief Trial Counsel George Cardona, whose office brought the discipline charges, said in a statement.

“Mr. Eastman repeatedly violated that duty. Worse, he did so in a way that threatened the fundamental principles of our democracy,” Cardona continued.

Eastman also faces criminal charges alongside Trump in Georgia, where they and more than a dozen other Trump allies are accused of attempting to overturn the state’s 2020 election results. Eastman has pleaded not guilty to the eight counts he faces.

Several other lawyers connected to Trump’s 2020 campaign have also faced repercussions for their false claims of election fraud and efforts to swing the election in the former president’s favor.

Longtime Trump ally Rudy Giuliani had his New York law license suspended in 2021, and a D.C. Bar Association disciplinary panel said in June his license in the district should be revoked. Ex-Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis was publicly censured in Colorado for her false statements tied to the election, and lawyer Lin Wood retired after the State Bar of Georgia said it would not pursue disciplinary proceedings against him should he do so.

A disciplinary trial for lawyer Jeffrey Clark, an ex-Justice Department official who helped Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, is also underway. The D.C. Bar’s Board of Professional Responsibility is attempting to strip his law license for using “the authority of the Department of Justice to overturn the election, based on a lie.”

Eastman also holds a law license in Washington, D.C.

Updated at 8:57 EDT

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