05/18/2024

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John Eastman

John Eastman barred from practicing law in D.C. pending ‘final disposition’ of disciplinary proceedings in California

FILE — Attorney John Eastman, the architect of a legal strategy aimed at keeping former President Donald Trump in power, talks to reporters after a hearing in Los Angeles, June 20, 2023. Eastman has turned himself in to authorities on charges in the Georgia case alleging an illegal plot to overturn the then-president’s 2020 election loss. Eastman was booked at the Fulton County jail on Tuesday, Aug. 22, before being released by authorities. Eastman is expected to face a judge to be arraigned in the sprawling racketeering case. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Conservative attorney John Eastman has been suspended from practicing law in the District of Columbia on an interim basis, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled in a Friday order.

The temporary suspension will be in effect until the “final disposition” of Eastman’s ongoing disciplinary proceedings in California, according to the order penned by Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby.

The erstwhile Donald Trump ally has fought so he can continue to represent his clients and earn money as he defends his law licenses while also facing down the prospect of his own looming criminal trial on racketeering (RICO) charges in Fulton County, Georgia.

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    A similar request to stay his temporary inactive status in the Golden State was denied by California State Bar Court Judge Yvette Roland on May 1, citing the “gravity of Eastman’s transgressions, particularly those involving moral turpitude, and the increased likelihood of future misconduct due to his refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing.”

    Both efforts so far to retain his ability to practice law as the cases progress have now failed.

    The D.C. court’s order follows an April 26 decision by the D.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel placing Eastman on involuntary active status — in response to a March 2024 ruling by the State Bar Court of California.

    “While attorneys have a duty to advocate zealously for their clients, they must do so within the bounds of ethical and legal constraints,” Roland wrote in that order. “Eastman’s actions transgressed those ethical limits by advocating, participating in and pursuing a strategy to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election that lacked evidentiary or legal support. Vigorous advocacy does not absolve Eastman of his professional responsibilities around honesty and upholding the rule of law.”

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    In November 2023, Roland issued a preliminary finding of culpability over Eastman’s various election-thwarting efforts.

    Eastman infamously authored two of many so-called “coup memos.” Those memos advised on potential scenarios under which President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory could be set aside.

    Additionally, the former Chapman University law professor backed a similarly failed effort to overturn the 2020 election at the U.S. Supreme Court launched by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

    The Lone Star State gambit decried mail-in voting expansion as a “massive opportunity of fraud,” in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin and argued that even the “appearance of fraud in a close” race could be enough to review “even if no election fraud had resulted.” In the end, only two justices — Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — wanted to hear those arguments; the high court passed.

    Two bar complaints were filed against Eastman by the States United Democracy Center, a nonprofit and nonpartisan voting rights group that previously litigated against Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

    The California bar complaint was filed in September 2021, followed by the D.C. bar complaint in August 2022.

    In a statement provided to Law&Crime, the group hailed the latest page in the long-running Eastman licensing saga.

    “We applaud the Office of Disciplinary Counsel for taking this action to ensure John Eastman cannot practice law,” said Gillian Feiner, the group’s senior counsel. “Eastman worked to help Trump overturn the 2020 election. People who break their oaths and use their law license to undermine the rule of law should not be able to practice. This action is an important step toward concrete consequences for Trump’s lawyers and safeguarding our democracy.”

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