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John Eastman’s California bar danger could hurt him at the Supreme Court, too

The lawyer who advised Trump’s 2020 election scheme could lose his California law license. Meanwhile, he’s pushing a fringe election theory at the Supreme Court.


John Eastman, the former Donald Trump lawyer and possible future Trump co-defendant, has added the potential loss of his California law license to his list of troubles.

If the state plucks Eastman’s license, that could put the former Justice Clarence Thomas clerk’s Supreme Court bar membership in further jeopardy as well. As it happens, on the subject of fringe election efforts, he’s lead counsel on a Supreme Court amicus brief — meaning a brief filed by an outside party not directly involved in the case — supporting North Carolina Republicans and the so-called independent state legislature theory in Moore v. Harper.

The most extreme version of the theory, popular among Trump allies, could radically change elections in the United States, giving outsize power to state legislatures over federal elections. So, amazingly then, we have an architect of Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election telling the Supreme Court how elections ought to be run.

So while the justices don’t appear to have acted on the complaint lodged to them directly, if Eastman faces discipline in California, then that could cause them to act.

The high court is already aware of Eastman’s recent ... behavior — or should be. A bipartisan group pressed the court to disbar him in July, citing “the undisputed and publicly available accounts of actions taken by John C. Eastman, a member of the Supreme Court Bar, relating to a concerted effort to overturn the legitimate 2020 presidential election results.” (The House Jan. 6 committee included Eastman among its criminal referrals to the Justice Department last month, so bar discipline isn’t his only concern.)

After the news of Eastman’s California trouble broke, I reached out to the group that wrote to the justices in July, The 65 Project, to check on the status of that effort. They said they haven’t received an update from the court. I also reached out to the court on the matter and will update if I hear back.

At this point, given the lawless terrain on which everything seems to be happening, it’s worth pointing out that there’s a relevant Supreme Court rule for disbarment (Rule 8, for those keeping score at home), which shows that other courts taking action can prompt the justices to act:

Whenever a member of the Bar of this Court has been disbarred or suspended from practice in any court of record, or has engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the Bar of this Court, the Court will enter an order suspending that member from practice before this Court and affording the member an opportunity to show cause, within 40 days, why a disbarment order should not be entered. ...

So while the justices don’t appear to have acted on the complaint lodged to them directly, if Eastman faces discipline in California, then that could cause them to act. But even if the high court disbars Eastman, that wouldn’t have a direct legal impact on Moore v. Harper, in which we’re awaiting a decision. Yet, no matter what happens with Eastman’s law license, given the antidemocratic allegations lodged at him in California (which he disputes), it will be worth watching if any of the justices cite his work when they rule.