Trump lawyer John Eastman facing probe by California state bar

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Attorney John Eastman gestures as he speaks next to U.S. President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, as Trump supporters gather ahead of the president’s speech to contest the certification by the U.S. Congress of the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election on the Ellipse in Washington, U.S, January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

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  • Eastman advanced theory electors could be rejected to deny Biden victory
  • Was speaker at Trump rally prior to Jan. 6 attack on U.S. Capitol

(Reuters) - Attorney regulators in California said Tuesday they have been investigating John Eastman, who represented former President Donald Trump in a long-shot lawsuit to overturn voting results in four states Trump lost in the 2020 election.

Eastman, a former Chapman University law professor, represented Trump before the U.S. Supreme Court as the high court weighed a lawsuit filed by Texas and 16 other U.S. states in a bid to invalidate the electoral results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The high court rejected the lawsuit in December 2020.

George Cardona, chief trial counsel for the State Bar of California, said in a statement that the investigation concerns whether Eastman violated California law and ethics rules "following and in relation to the November 2020 presidential election." Cardona said no disciplinary charges have been filed yet.

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"A number of individuals and entities have brought to the State Bar's attention press reports, court filings, and other public documents detailing Mr. Eastman’s conduct," Cardona said.

Los Angeles lawyer Randall Miller, who is representing Eastman in the state bar matter, said he expects to be exonerated. Eastman "zealously represented his client, comprehensively exploring legal and constitutional means to advance his client’s interests," Miller said.

It is rare for a state disciplinary authority to confirm the existence of an ethics investigation, experts said.

"In most states, prior to the pursuit of any formal proceedings, matters are treated as confidential" by disciplinary officials, said Brian Faughnan, a Memphis-based shareholder at law firm Lewis Thomason.

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said Tuesday's disclosure shows California bar officials "think it’s in the public’s interest to know that they got all the complaints and they’re taking them seriously."

Eastman spoke at the Trump rally held near the White House shortly before mobs of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, which saw rioters battle police inside and outside the Capitol and sent lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence into hiding.

In legal memos, Eastman advanced the theory that Pence could reject electors from certain states to deny Democrat Joe Biden a majority of Electoral College vote.

(NOTE: This story has been updated with comment from an attorney for John Eastman.)

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.