April 18, 2024

(Bloomberg) — John Eastman, the conservative lawyer who helped lead former President Donald Trump’s failed legal strategy to undermine the results of the 2020 presidential election, is fighting efforts by California regulators to strip his law license.

In a 112-page court filing, Eastman’s lawyers denied that he had violated attorney ethics rules. They argued that his activities following the 2020 election and the legal advice he gave to Trump were rooted in evidence and legal scholarship.

The State Bar of California’s Chief Trial Counsel filed a complaint in January accusing Eastman of promoting false election fraud claims and of providing legal advice about then-Vice President Mike Pence’s authority to interfere with the counting of electoral votes that Eastman knew or should have known wasn’t ‘t supported.

Eastman’s lawyers raised 16 defenses to the California complaint in a Wednesday filing. They wrote that state bar regulators are “politically biased” and that Eastman’s activities were covered by his First Amendment rights to free speech, political association, and to petition the government. They defended Eastman’s legal analysis, but wrote that even if he had gotten the law wrong, it would not rise to the level of “willful misconduct” or “gross negligence.”

Eastman also used the filing to continue to question the validity of Joe Biden’s presidency.

In a statement announcing their response to the ethics case on Thursday, Eastman’s lawyer Randall Miller urged the California court to find that the charges are “an unprecedented and highly partisan attack on Eastman’s representation of a client that the Bar does not like, on behalf of a cause that the Bar does not agree with – and summarily dismiss them.”

Following the 2020 election, Trump and his allies promoted baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and unsuccessfully tried to press court challenges to Biden’s wins in battleground states. Eastman wrote memos on the legal case for Pence to delay the vote count when Congress met to certify the results on Jan. 6, 2021, on the grounds that there were competing slates of electors in certain states. Pence refused to do so.

On the morning of Jan. 6, Eastman spoke at a rally at the Ellipse near the White House where he repeated the claims of widespread fraud; a mob of thousands of Trump supporters attacked the US Capitol later that day.

There’s no trial date yet before the California bar court. The parties are due to appear before a judge later this month for an initial hearing to discuss the next steps.

“The Notice of Disciplinary Charges alleges that Mr. Eastman actively and knowingly participated in an egregious and unprecedented attack on our democracy,” California Chief Trial Counsel George Cardona said in a statement. “The Office of Chief Trial Counsel stands ready to present the evidence supporting the charges to the State Bar Court.”

The case is In the Matter of John Charles Eastman, State Bar Court of California, SBC-23-O-30029.

(Updates with chief trial counsel’s statement.)

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