Can John Eastman Get a Fair Trial?

The disbarment proceeding against John Eastman for his role in assisting President Trump in contesting the 2020 election results got under way today, with a trial before the California State Bar, with California Bar Court Judge Yvette Roland presiding. You can actually watch the trial, which is expected to take a week, live on Zoom. I watched the first five hours Tuesday, and while the proceedings seemed slow and were preoccupied at the opening with which witnesses would be allowed and which evidence would be admitted, things picked up speed in a hurry when Eastman took the stand after lunch. It was then that the Alice-in-Wonderland character of “sentence first, verdict after” became readily apparent.

The behavior of the presiding judge, Yvette Roland, was startling. Several times during the direct examination by the State Bar lawyer Duncan Carling, Judge Roland intervened to challenge Eastman on his answer, rather than leaving it to Carling to follow up. More than once she chastised Eastman, at one point saying, “Mr. Eastman, you don’t get to frame or reframe a question into the one you want answered.”

I’m no expert on trials, having only sat on a jury once for a complicated five-week criminal trial, but this seems like biased behavior on the part of the judge to me. She was questioning Eastman more aggressively than the Bar counsel. It was two against one. Between this behavior and some evidentiary and witness rulings, I can see grounds for appeal already.

Judge Roland appears to be a conventional lawyer who spent most of her career in commercial litigation for a big LA firm before becoming chief judge of the State Bar. But there is one detail about her background in her official bio that jumps out: “She served as an Immigration Law Counselor at the UCLA Office of International Students & Scholars.”

Just a hunch, but I’ll bet she isn’t sympathetic to Eastman’s lengthy work challenging our understanding of “birthright citizenship” under the 14th Amendment.

Stay tuned. One of Eastman’s principal witnesses for his defense case is . . . John Yoo. I expect this may come up in a future podcast. My own thoughts from a while ago about the legal and constitutional aspects of the matter are found here.

P.S. Eastman has a legal defense fund, and if you are so inclined you can contribute here.

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