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Supreme Court Asked to Disbar John Eastman Over Jan. 6 Role (1)

July 28, 2022, 7:18 PMUpdated: July 28, 2022, 9:24 PM

A group seeking to disbar attorneys who helped Donald Trump try to overturn the 2020 election now wants the US Supreme Court to take action.

The 65 Project asked the justices to suspend and ultimately disbar conservative lawyer John C. Eastman, who it says orchestrated efforts that culminated in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection by Trump supporters.

Eastman is said to have advanced a theory about how Vice President Mike Pence could short-circuit the counting of electoral votes, and spoke at a rally just prior to the Capitol riot seeking to upend the electoral certification of the ballot.

“Membership in the United States Supreme Court Bar represents a privilege, not a right, and should be afforded only to those whose professional conduct demonstrates respect for the rule of law,” the group said in its request to the court.

It further asked that Clarence Thomas recuse himself from considering Eastman’s sanction, noting he clerked for the conservative justice during the 1996 term. Further, Thomas’ wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, was in contact with Eastman and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows about litigation over the election.

That fact “alone provides sufficient basis for Justice Thomas to recuse himself,” the group said. Thomas rarely recuses and has not disqualified himself when the court has considered 2020 election matters. The group acknowledges that Thomas isn’t required by law to do so, but said the touchstone should be public confidence in the court’s proceedings and whether the public might reasonably see his participation as impropriety.

The justices are on break, but could address the disbarment request in summer order lists scheduled for Aug. 1., Aug. 22, and Sept. 9.

Removal from the Supreme Court bar is usually triggered by an attorney’s disbarment from another court, which is often preceded by official misconduct proceedings.

The Democratic-linked 65 Project is named after the 65 lawsuits filed by Trump-affiliated lawyers in the aftermath of the 2020 election won by Joe Biden.

It seeks to “protect democracy from the threat posed through abuse of the legal system by holding accountable the lawyers who bring fraudulent lawsuits seeking to overturn legitimate election results or who otherwise violate their professional responsibilities to undermine our democracy,” according to its website.

The group has filed similar requests against other lawyers, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Charles Burnham, an attorney for Eastman, said in an email that Eastman believes the bases of the request are unfounded and will respond to any inquiry by the court, if necessary.

“He is confident he will be fully vindicated in the matter,” Burnham said.

Eastman, a lawyer with the conservative think tank Claremont Institute, argued one case before the Supreme Court back in 2004. But he’s continued to file friend-of-the-court briefs with the justices supporting conservative issues.

As recently as May, Eastman filed an amicus brief in support of efforts to nix affirmative action programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, and urging the use of race-neutral principles for admissions policies.

“Under Harvard’s admissions program the content of the applicant’s character is determined by his race,” the brief said. “This is the very definition of racism.” The affirmative action cases will be heard next term.

(Adds comment from Eastman attorney)

To contact the reporter on this story: Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson in Washington at krobinson@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com