A judge in California recommended on Wednesday that the lawyer John Eastman be stripped of his law license, finding he had violated rules of professional ethics by persistently lying in his efforts to help former President Donald J. Trump maintain his grip on power after losing the 2020 election.

In a 128-page ruling, the judge, Yvette Roland, said Mr. Eastman had willfully misrepresented facts in lawsuits he helped file challenging the election results and acted dishonestly in promoting a “wild theory” that Mr. Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, could unilaterally declare him the victor during a certification proceeding at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“In sum, Eastman exhibited gross negligence by making false statements about the 2020 election without conducting any meaningful investigation or verification of the information he was relying upon,” Judge Roland found, adding that he had breached “his ethical duty as an attorney to prioritize honesty and integrity.”

The ruling said Mr. Eastman would lose his license within three days of the decision being issued. While he can appeal the finding, the ruling makes his license “inactive,” meaning that he cannot practice law in California while a review is taking place.

The decision was only the latest effort by bar officials across the country to seek accountability against a group of lawyers who pushed false claims of election fraud and sought to help Mr. Trump stay in office.

“This is a big deal,” said Joanna Lydgate, the chief executive of the States United Democracy Center, which filed the initial bar complaint against Mr. Eastman. “In the fight to protect democracy and the rule of law, consequences are imperative.”

Randall Miller, a lawyer for Mr. Eastman, said in a statement on Wednesday night that he was “confident” an appeals court “will swiftly provide a remedy” to the disbarment ruling.

“Dr. Eastman maintains that his handling of the legal issues he was asked to assess after the November 2020 election was based on reliable legal precedent, prior presidential elections, research of constitutional text and extensive scholarly material,” Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Eastman, a constitutional law scholar who once clerked for the Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, was one of the architects of a brazen legal scheme to create fake slates of pro-Trump electors in states that were actually won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. He also promoted the plan to pressure Mr. Pence to use the fake elector slates in an effort to throw the election to Mr. Trump during the proceeding.

In recommending Mr. Eastman lose his license, Judge Roland accused him of “moral turpitude” for his “dubious strategy to influence Vice President Pence to take unilateral action” to hand the election to Mr. Trump on Jan. 6.

“No law or provision in the Constitution confers on the vice president the power to reject electoral votes or delay the counting of votes,” the judge wrote. “Eastman knew this.”

Because of his role in the election interference schemes, Mr. Eastman was identified — albeit not by name — as Co-Conspirator 2 in a federal indictment filed in Washington last summer charging Mr. Trump with plotting to overturn the election. The indictment describes Co-Conspirator 2, who was not charged in the case, as a lawyer who came up with and sought to carry out a plan to “leverage” Mr. Pence’s “ceremonial role” at the proceeding on Jan. 6 to “obstruct the certification of the presidential election.”

Mr. Eastman is facing charges in a separate state case in Georgia where he has been named with Mr. Trump in a sprawling racketeering indictment. That indictment has accused Mr. Eastman of taking part in a plot to tamper with the results of the election in Georgia.

The disciplinary case against Mr. Eastman was opened with the State Bar of California in Los Angeles in January 2023. After an expansive, multiweek hearing that delved into his promotion of baseless claims of election fraud and his promulgation of fringe legal theories about the vice president’s supposed authority to single-handedly choose the winner of a presidential election, the bar officials returned a preliminary finding in November that he had breached his professional ethics.

Hours before the decision against Mr. Eastman came down, another pro-Trump lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, was undergoing his own disciplinary hearing in Washington. Mr. Clark testified during the hearing on Wednesday, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination dozens of times.

In the waning days of Mr. Trump’s presidency, Mr. Clark, a top official in the Justice Department, sought to have himself appointed as acting attorney general, in part by promising to push Mr. Trump’s false claims of election fraud to state officials in Georgia and other states. Like Mr. Eastman, Mr. Clark was identified as a co-conspirator in Mr. Trump’s election interference case in Washington and was named as one of the former president’s co-defendants in the case in Georgia.

In 2021, another lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who led Mr. Trump’s efforts to reverse his electoral defeat, had his own law license suspended in New York. In 2023, a legal ethics committee in Washington recommended that Mr. Giuliani lose his license there as well.

That same year, Jenna Ellis, yet another lawyer who worked for Mr. Trump after the election, admitted that she had knowingly misrepresented the facts in several public claims that widespread voting fraud had led to Mr. Trump’s defeat. Those admissions were part of an agreement to accept public censure and settle disciplinary measures brought against her by state bar officials in Colorado, her home state.


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Credit: NYTimes.com

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