The California State Bar said it was investigating a lawyer for former President Donald Trump for possibly violating legal and ethical rules relating to the 2020 election.
John Eastman, the former dean of Chapman University Law School in Southern California, argued after the November 2020 election that then-Vice President Mike Pence could overturn the results and uphold Trump in power. Critics likened it to instructions for staging a coup.
Pence refused to do so and Trump left office. But since then, Eastman has been subpoenaed by a committee of U.S. lawmakers investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol uprising.
On Tuesday, the California State Bar confirmed that it had been investigating Eastman since September. These investigations are generally kept secret, but state bar rules say it can confirm them publicly “when warranted for the protection of the public.”
In a press release, the bar said “details of the investigation must be kept confidential” to comply with state law and “give the investigation the best chance of success.”
George Cardona, the state bar’s senior attorney, investigates and prosecutes attorneys’ disciplinary cases in the state bar court, which can recommend attorneys’ suspension or, in some cases, loss of their license of exercise of law. The California Supreme Court finally decides what to do.
“A number of individuals and entities have brought to the attention of the State Bar news articles, court documents and other public documents detailing Mr. Eastman’s conduct,” Cardona said. “We would like to thank those who took the time to bring this information to our attention, which serves as the starting point for our investigation.”
The state bar said Eastman was aware of the investigation. But attempts to reach him on Tuesday were unsuccessful. There was no answer to the phone number listed for his law firm in Anaheim and no way to leave a message.
Eastman has been a member of the California Bar since 1997, according to the Bar’s website. He served as law clerk to United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and founding director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, a law firm affiliated with the Claremont Institute.
Eastman spoke at Trump’s rally in Washington ahead of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Shortly thereafter, he retired from Chapman University after more than 160 faculty members signed a letter calling on the university to take action against him.