One of the more dispiriting aspects of Donald Trump’s disturbing ability to inspire the unthinking allegiance of his followers is the fact that so many of them, by any objective standard, really ought to know better. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the behavior of the lawyers he enlisted to provide legal cover or justification for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The case of John Eastman is particularly troubling. As the so-called legal architect of Trump’s plans to keep himself in office despite clearly losing a free and fair election, once Eastman started dispensing his advice, he had a responsibility as a lawyer to provide Trump with all available legal options under the circumstances. That responsibility, however, did not confer on him the right—under the widely understood rules of lawyers’ professional conduct—to advise Trump or others within Trump’s orbit to avail themselves of pseudo-legal justifications that patently flew in the face of existing law. As the former dean of the Chapman School of Law, and a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Eastman should have known that. Put as charitably as possible, the fact that Eastman apparently didn’t know suggests that he allowed his right-wing political inclinations to govern his judgment. Put less charitably, it suggests he completely misunderstands his obligations as a lawyer. That’s why Eastman is facing disciplinary proceedings in the state of California right now, and why those proceedings may well result in his disbarment.
Last week the attorney for the California State Bar, prosecuting those proceedings, submitted a 91-page report authored by its expert, Matthew A Seligman. Seligman, a fellow at the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford University and a specialist in election law, evaluated Eastman’s actions, including his supposed legal theories, and concluded they could not have been made by any lawyer in good faith.
The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin highlights some of the key aspects of the report. As Rubin observes, the report has serious implications that go well beyond John Eastman’s ability to continue practicing law: It also contains bad news for Donald Trump and others indicted in connection with his schemes to overturn the 2020 election.
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