January 26, 2023 – The State Bar of California’s Chief Trial Counsel George Cardona announced today the filing of a Notice of Disciplinary Charges (NDC) against attorney John Charles Eastman (State Bar No. 193726). The 11 charges arise from allegations that Eastman engaged in a course of conduct to plan, promote, and assist then-President Trump in executing a strategy, unsupported by facts or law, to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election by obstructing the count of electoral votes of certain states.
Specific charges allege that Eastman made false and misleading statements regarding purported election fraud, including statements on January 6, 2020, at a rally in Washington, D.C., that contributed to provoking a crowd to assault and breach the Capitol to intimidate then-Vice President Pence and prevent the electoral count from proceeding.
The Office of Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC) intends to seek Eastman’s disbarment before the State Bar Court.
In March 2022, Cardona invoked a public protection waiver to announce that an investigation of Eastman was underway. Eastman now faces multiple charges that he violated Business and Professions Code section 6106 by making false and misleading statements that constitute acts of “moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption.”
“There is nothing more sacrosanct to our American democracy than free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power,” said Cardona. “For California attorneys, adherence to the U.S. and California Constitutions is their highest legal duty. The Notice of Disciplinary Charges alleges that Mr. Eastman violated this duty in furtherance of an attempt to usurp the will of the American people and overturn election results for the highest office in the land—an egregious and unprecedented attack on our democracy—for which he must be held accountable.”
As has been widely reported, Eastman drafted two “legal memos” that laid out proposed strategies to block then-President-elect Joe Biden from taking office by circumventing established procedures for the counting of electoral votes in front of the U.S. Congress and overseen by Vice President Pence. The NDC alleges that the strategies proposed by these memos, as well as in remarks Eastman made publicly and privately to President Trump, Vice President Pence, and others, were unsupported by law, based on false and misleading assertions of fact, and designed for the purpose of keeping Trump in office. The NDC alleges that, after hearing from the U.S. Department of Justice that it had not seen any election fraud on a scale that could have affected the election’s outcome, and after multiple courts had rejected election fraud lawsuits, Eastman knew, or should have known, that the factual premise for his proposals―that massive fraud was at play―was false, and that Trump had lost his bid for re-election.
The NDC also alleges that Eastman ignored these truths when he spoke at the “Save America March” on January 6, 2020, inciting the crowd to take action when, with the intent to convince them that the outcome of the presidential election had been affected by fraud, he said that “dead people had voted” in the presidential election, that Dominion voting machines had fraudulently manipulated the election results, and that Vice President Pence did not deserve to be in office if he did not delay the counting of electoral votes. These statements contributed to provoking the crowd that participated in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol that occurred after the rally.
A Notice of Disciplinary Charges filed by OCTC contains only allegations of professional misconduct. The licensee is presumed to be innocent of any misconduct warranting discipline until the charges have been proven.
The State Bar Court of California is the only independent court in the U.S. dedicated solely to attorney discipline. Attorney discipline matters are investigated and prosecuted by OCTC, acting on behalf of the public. The State Bar Court oversees disciplinary proceedings and adjudicates charges filed by OCTC. The court rules on whether OCTC has proved charges of professional misconduct by clear and convincing evidence and may recommend that an attorney be suspended or disbarred.
State Bar proceedings include a legal requirement during the prefiling period to provide respondents with a “fair, adequate and reasonable opportunity to deny or explain the matters” which will be the subject of any charges, and, prior to the filing of disciplinary charges, respondents have the “right to request an Early Neutral Evaluation Conference” before a State Bar Court hearing judge.
If a disciplinary ruling involves disbarment or suspension, the State Bar Court’s recommendation is transmitted to the California Supreme Court, which determines whether to impose the recommended discipline. See rule 9.18, California Rules of Court.
You can search more extensive State Bar Court records and documents related to this case, or any attorney discipline matters, using the court’s Case Search feature. Input either the case number or attorney’s name (last, first middle).
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