John Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University, represents President Donald Trump on a lawsuit filed by Texas and 17 other states calling on the Supreme Court to prevent four key states from completing President-elect Joe Biden’s recent election victory.
Eastman’s role in a lawsuit criticized by many as an unsubstantiated political ploy marks the second time this year that he has been at the center of national controversy. It also prompted public reprimands from Eastman’s boss and staff.
After Chapman President Daniele Struppa learned Thursday that Eastman had used his university contact information in the lawsuit, he issued a university-wide email instructing Eastman to rewrite the letter and remove all Chapman references – a request that Eastman agreed to. At least 89 faculty members have now signed a statement at Chapman stating that Eastman will not speak for the university.
However, Eastman said his role as Trump’s attorney should be viewed positively.
“This is something to be very proud of, that one of our faculty is considered a leading constitutional scholar and that the president has asked me to represent him,” Eastman told the register.
However, many election officials and legal scholars described the lawsuit as unfounded and sloppy and pointed to factual errors and legal problems in Eastman’s brief.
UC Irvine’s constitutional expert Rick Hasen called the suit nothing more than a “ridiculous” stunt and suggested that it would further damage public confidence in the democratic process, no matter how it goes.
“I think it’s really worrying when millions of people believe the election was stolen when there isn’t good evidence,” Hasen said. “I don’t think this lawsuit will make any difference to these people.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton first filed a lawsuit on Tuesday asking the Supreme Court to prevent Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania from confirming their election results because electoral officials there conducted the voting process without legislative approval changed what he believed to be a violation of the Constitution. Eastman filed a letter on behalf of Trump on Wednesday supporting Paxton’s lawsuit. The attorneys general for 17 other states and 106 members of the Republican House have also pledged to support the effort.
Eastman said he and Trump did not discuss the possibility of such a lawsuit before Paxton filed his lawsuit. However, when Eastman pressed for more information about when and why he was hired as Trump’s agent – as he does not regularly discuss Supreme Court cases in the lawsuit – he declined to respond, citing attorney privilege.
Eastman argues that the constitution and case law give him reasons to oppose the confirmation of the election results. If the Supreme Court agrees to take the case and Texas and Trump win, Eastman said lawmakers in the four target states could decide how to cast their votes and potentially swing the presidency for Trump, regardless of the will of voters in those states.
Hasen dismissed each of Eastman’s legal arguments. He cited several laws preventing states from interfering in each other’s elections and invalidating the timing of this lawsuit. He also noted that lawmakers in the four states have already said they would not overturn their voters’ votes, meaning nothing would change even if Eastman’s team creates a surprise and wins the case.
This is not Eastman’s first fame in making claims that have been rejected by many other legal scholars.
In August, Eastman penned a Newsweek article advocating a widely discredited legal opinion alleging that Sen. Kamala Harris – a biracial woman born in Oakland to immigrant parents – was not eligible to serve as Vice President of the To become United States.
This article spurred a petition signed by Chapman Faculty members condemning what they viewed as a racially motivated attempt to discredit Harris’ historic candidacy. They argued that Eastman’s article also threatened the progress that Chapman officials believed was being made to regain the school’s reputation as an arch-conservative, mostly white institution.
The turmoil over this August controversy “lit a fire” among students, faculty and administrators alike, said Chapman Sociology Prof. Lisa Leitz, chair of the university’s peace studies department. In the past few months, Leitz said Chapman had formed a Diversity, Justice and Inclusion Task Force to urge the recruitment of a Vice President for Diversity and was considering writing diversity curricula. That’s why Leitz said she was “disgusted” by Eastman’s recent controversy, which she believes is damaging these efforts.
The inclusion of Chapman’s name in the lawsuit was also “a bridge too far” for Lori Cox Han, a political science professor at Chapman whose research focuses on the presidency. She described factual submission errors as embarrassing for the university and worried about how this would affect Chapman’s ability to attract students, faculties, and donors.
“I’m tired of being associated with someone whose views are so marginalized,” Han said.
A statement signed by faculty members on Thursday said: “John Eastman’s mandate to the Supreme Court to overthrow the 2020 elections in multiple states is and should be viewed as a shameful attack on American democracy. This filing of legal errors and outright falsehoods – in which Eastman used his Chapman email address and phone number – is contrary to the core values of this university and should be viewed as embarrassing. This is not who we are. “
While Leitz is not calling for Eastman’s dismissal, she believes his use of the university name is a violation of faculty rules that could justify depriving him of his foundation professor status.
Eastman said he had received notes from students thanking him for his stance and that he had received comments from anti-Trump students who were upset about him. He argues that all of this is part of supporting intellectual diversity.