Judge preliminarily finds ex-Trump attorney John Eastman culpable in California bar disciplinary case

A California judge preliminary found John Eastman, an ex-attorney of former President Donald Trump, culpable of ethics violations in a state bar disciplinary case brought against him for his efforts to help Trump cling to power after the 2020 election, according to the group that filed a complaint against him.

The preliminary finding Thursday by State Bar Court Judge Yvette D. Roland that Eastman is culpable for multiple ethics violations marks a key moment in the months-long case against Eastman, who could face sanctions as severe as disbarment should the judge eventually issue a final finding of culpability.

Attorneys with the state bar, which is prosecuting the case against Eastman before Roland, said in a statement Friday that her preliminary finding gives them more opportunity to provide evidence that could bolster their argument for a harsher punishment.

“From OCTC’s perspective, the significance of yesterday’s tentative ruling on culpability is that it allows OCTC to present evidence on aggravation,” the Office of Chief Trial Counsel said.

CNN has reached out to attorneys for Eastman for comment.

The trial is set to conclude on Friday, and Roland could issue her final decision as early as late November. Both parties will be able to appeal her decision up to the California Supreme Court.

The proceeding against Eastman in California is only one effort across the country where disciplinary authorities are seeking to compromise the law licenses of attorneys who assisted Trump after the election. Attorneys who worked for Trump in Michigan have been sanctioned, Rudy Giuliani’s law license is currently suspended, and he and Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official under Trump, are facing their own ongoing bar disciplinary proceedings. On top of those efforts, the criminal charges against Eastman, Giuliani, Clark and others in Fulton County, Georgia, could lead to their inability to practice law, if they are convicted.

Eastman’s trial, which began in June, has featured a host of witnesses from both sides, including a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who testified on Eastman’s behalf and a former chief counsel to former Vice President Mike Pence, who was called by the state bar.

The group States United filed the ethics complaint against Eastman in October 2021 for his role in helping Trump attempt to reverse the election results, and the state bar brought its case earlier this year.

“As we reach the end of an ethics trial that spanned from June into November, it’s never been more clear that John Eastman had no legal or factual basis for his plan to help Donald Trump steal the 2020 presidential election. Today’s preliminary finding of culpability marks a major milestone in the State Bar’s pursuit of accountability,” Christine P. Sun, the group’s senior vice president of legal, said in a statement.

In the Georgia election subversion case brought against Eastman and others, prosecutors have charged the attorney with nine counts, including racketeering and solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer. Eastman had pleaded not guilty in that case.

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