US Supreme Court spurns former Trump lawyer Eastman’s appeal over emails

By Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned away an appeal by John Eastman, a conservative lawyer indicted in August over his role in efforts to overturn Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss, in a case involving 10 emails that he had sought to shield from congressional investigators.

The justices declined to hear Eastman’s appeal of a lower court’s refusal to wipe out a federal judge’s determination that the emails could be turned over to a House of Representatives committee due to an exception to attorney-client privilege involving communications likely used in furtherance of a crime.

Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas did not participate in considering the case, the court’s brief order showed.

The Democratic-led panel issued a subpoena seeking the emails in its investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump’s supporters and other matters involving efforts to undo Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory over Trump.

Eastman, a former law professor at Chapman University in California, filed suit in federal court to prevent the school from complying with the panel’s subpoena.

In decisions in 2022, U.S. District Court Judge David Carter in Santa Ana ordered certain emails to be turned over, including those related to Trump and Eastman’s court efforts to delay congressional certification of Biden’s victory. Trump has made false claims that the election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud.

Attorney-client communications are normally safeguarded from disclosure. The so-called “crime-fraud” exception involves when a judge determines that they are likely used in furtherance of a crime.

Carter ruled that Trump and Eastman had “more likely than not” committed a crime in trying to obstruct Congress. Eastman has sought to erase the judge’s determination that the “crime-fraud” exception applied to some of the emails. His lawyers argued that given the fact that the emails eventually were publicly disclosed and left the legal case “moot,” Carter’s ruling “imposes a stigma” on both him and Trump and should be voided.

Eastman appealed after the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last November rejected his request to wipe out Carter’s “crime-fraud” decision.

Eastman represented Trump in a long-shot lawsuit seeking to overturn voting results in four states that Trump lost in 2020 and spoke at a rally at which Trump addressed his supporters before the Capitol riot. Eastman also wrote a memo outlining how, in his view, then-Vice President Mike Pence could thwart the formal congressional certification of Biden’s victory, though Pence ultimately declined to follow his advice.

Eastman pleaded not guilty after being indicted in August in Georgia’s Fulton County alongside Trump and a raft of others on state charges involving efforts to reverse Trump’s election loss. The indictment accused Eastman of being part of a plot to appoint fake electors for the election certification process.

Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to face Biden in the 2024 election.

The justices announced their action on the first day of their new nine-month term.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)