Trump lawyer fired from the University of Colorado for giving a speech at Trump’s rally

February 11, 2021 • 1:15 pm

I suppose I’ll get into trouble by defending the right to free speech of someone who likes Trump, especially if he’s John C. Eastman, one of Trump’s former lawyers who spoke at the infamous January 6 pre-siege Trump rally. But what I’m really defending here, as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) did, is not misguided Republican thinking but freedom of speech. In particular, I’m defending someone who spoke at that rally but did not incite violence and had no history of doing so. That’s free speech, and yet he was fired from a public university for it—after he was first exonerated by the university but then further attacked by online mobs. But remember, what good is free speech if we don’t allow it for our political opponents?

Click on the screenshot to read FIRE’s press release:

According to the letter that FIRE wrote to the the University of Colorado at Boulder (“UCB”; see below for letter), Eastman, then a visiting professor at UCB, spoke for 3 minutes at the January 6 rally. This is a transcript of his talk:

Hello, America!

Sorry, I had to say that. Look, we’ve got petitions pending before the Supreme Court that identify—in chapter and verse—the number of times state election officials ignored or violated a state law in order to put Vice President Biden over the finish line. We know there was fraud— traditional fraud—that occurred. We know that dead people voted. But we now know, because we caught it live last time in real time, how the machines contributed to that fraud. And let me as simply as I can explain it.

You know, the old way was to have a bunch of ballots sitting in a box under the floor, and when you needed more, you pull them out in the dark of night. They put those ballots in a secret folder and the machines, sitting there waiting until they know how many they need. And then the machine after the close of polls, we now know who’s voted, and we know who hasn’t. And I can now—in that machine— match those unvoted ballots with an unvoted voter and put them together in the machine. And how do we know that happened last night in real time? You saw when it got to 99 percent of the vote total and then it stopped. The percentage stopped, but the votes didn’t stop. What happened—and you don’t see this on Fox or any of those stations—but the data shows that the denominator: How many ballots remained to be counted? How else do you figure out the percentage that you have? How many remain to be counted? That number started moving up. That means they were unloading the ballots from that secret folder, matching ‘em to the unvoted voter, and voila! we have enough votes to barely get over the finish line. We saw it happen in real time last night, and it happened on November 3rd as well. And all we are demanding of Vice President Pence is this afternoon at one o’clock, he let the legislatures of the state look into this so we get to the bottom of it, and the American people know whether we have control of the direction of our government or not. We no longer live in a self-governing Republic if we can’t get the answer to this question. This is bigger than President Trump. It is the very essence of our republican form of government and it has to be done. And anybody that is not willing to stand up to do it does not deserve to be in the office. It is that simple.

So we have a claim that the election was rigged and the results may have been wrong. Stupid? Yes, in view of the many audits that confirmed no fraud. A lie? Probably not: I suspect Eastman believed it. Incitement? No way: he’s not calling for “taking back the government” or “fighting”, but calling for Pence (who didn’t have that power) to ask the legislatures to audit the votes.

Yes, Eastman’s claims are ridiculous and partisan, but perfectly legal under the First Amendment. There is no incitement of violence with predictable results, which isn’t free speech (see below). And, as FIRE says, “the First Amendment is clear: A public university cannot cancel a professor’s courses, withdraw his role in organizing campus discussions, and preemptively decline to renew his contract because of public anger over his extramural discussion.”  Of course, UCB is a public university.

But it went ahead and violated the First Amendment.

Initially, the mob demanded that UCB punish Eastman for his role and his remarks. He was defended by the school’s chancellor who said that “the university will not censor a faculty member’s political statements or initiate disciplinary action because it disapproves of them.”

But then public ire grew (sound familiar?), and so UCB thought twice. As FIRE reports:

. . . professor Daniel Jacobson, Director of the Benson Center at CU Boulder, where Eastman is a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy, stated that the center “defends the right of its scholars to express unpopular opinions within the limits of the law,” and acknowledged that Eastman “did not call for the violence that occurred after the event, and his speech is protected by the First Amendment.”

On Jan. 10, as public anger over the violence at the Capitol and election rhetoric mounted, Eastman was notified by Jacobson that his classes were cancelled, his responsibilities were rescinded, and his contract would not be renewed. He was forbidden to engage in outreach on behalf of the Benson Center or use campus resources for those purposes, lest he be charged with “insubordination.”

The reasoning? “Terrible press,” the school’s “reputation,” and pressure from “supporters” of the Benson Center, wrote Jacobson.

CU Boulder has asserted that the College of Arts and Sciences typically requires 15 students for undergraduate classes and that Eastman’s courses did not meet that threshold. But FIRE has not been able to locate a policy to that effect and the university’s course registration database reveals dozens of courses in which there are currently fewer than 15 students enrolled. In fact, the university advertises its small class sizes, which it says “can vary from lectures of 200 or more students to smaller classes of 10-20 students.”

“Terrible press” and public pressure are not reasons to fire anybody from a public university.

FIRE wrote a 12-page letter to UCB Chancellor Philip DiStefano saying that their actions violated the First Amendment. It also outlined the legal qualifications for speech to constitute unprotected incitement:

Expression advocating “the use of force or of law violation” amounts to unprotected incitement only where it is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” Accordingly, the speech must (1) “specifically advocate for listeners to take unlawful action”; (2) be “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action”; and (3) be “likely to incite or produce such action.”

Eastman’s speech don’t meet any of those three criteria. Misguided and biased as he was, he cannot be and should not have been punished by UCB, even as a visiting professor. The school should reinstate his job and, if they don’t he has a good case for a lawsuit.

Eastman, by the way, was a tenured professor of law and former dean at the Chapman University School of Law, but had to leave that private university after controversy about his speech at the rally. Now they’re trying to make him leave UCB as well.

86 thoughts on “Trump lawyer fired from the University of Colorado for giving a speech at Trump’s rally

  1. Maybe I missed something here in CO, but I don’t think that he was fired. My understanding is that his upcoming semester class had a small number of students, so they cancelled his course and assigned the students elsewhere. The Chancellor condemned his speech, but said that he would not be terminated; it’s a one year appointment that will expire this academic year. All such appointments are for one year only and are never renewed. They did ban him from official CU events, but have not restricted any other activities. Most folks out this way agree with this: https://www.cuindependent.com/2021/02/07/the-only-fraud-is-john-eastman/

    1. To be fair, our host quoted from the FIRE piece which addressed the issue of class sizes.

      (Edit: I deleted that quote from my comment when I realised that it was reproduced above.)

      1. There is not policy because it would be too rigid. It is up to the Chair, Dean and Chancellor to decide if a course should be cancelled and students directed elsewhere.

    2. I work at the University of Colorado, Boulder and can confirm that Douglas is correct. Eastman was not fired. His classes were canceled because there is a minimum number of students required for classes and his did not attain that minimum. Eastman will remain at CU until the end of the academic year and will continue to be paid until then. He was forced to take retirement by his home institution, Chapman University. I don’t know if he will take a new university position anywhere. Eastman’s shenanigans have stirred a lively debate among CU faculty as to whether they are allowed to have input in hiring decisions at the Benson Center.

  2. An unpopular opinion is one thing but I have a hard time accepting someone who knowingly is lying and spreading bogus conspiracy theories with no proof or facts to back them up. As far as I am concerned, all of these people contributed to causing the January 6 violence, and that includes Fox News, OAN and Newsmax.

    1. Yeah, I’m in agreement. Free speech doesn’t extend to inciting a mob to violence. He lent support to the big lie that the election was fraudulent, and stood alongside with the others on that platform who used that lie to spur the crowd on to attack the Capitol, including Trump himself.

      Nazi officers after WWII also tried to argue that they themselves never partook in crimes against humanity. That defense didn’t work usually. They were complicit simply by supporting the ones who did the crimes.

      1. Free speech doesn’t extend to inciting a mob to violence, but the lawyer’s remarks were not incitement to violence. Certainly not in a legal sense that would strip his words of First Amendment protection.

        1. True, but context matters. If you stand on stage next to someone who is inciting violence based on a lie, and you both continue to stand with them and endorse the lie, then aren’t you tacitly endorsing the incitement?

          1. Exactly, he, as a trained lawyer, should have recognized the possibility that the rally could have dire consequences, especially give Trumps tweet 18 days earlier wherein he said “Will be wild”.

    2. So are you saying you think it’s ok for the government to suppress people who are “lying and spreading bogus conspiracy theories”?

      If so, you are going to need the world biggest and sharpest ice axe if you ever wish to stop your skid down that slope.

    3. Also, maybe he wasn’t paid to speak at the rally, but if he’s getting public money for a salary, and he’s spreading lies, do taxpayers have any rights here?

      What if a biology professor at a public university goes on a lecture tour touting creationism? Where is the line here? (IANAL)

      L

      1. “Also, maybe he wasn’t paid to speak at the rally, but if he’s getting public money for a salary, and he’s spreading lies, do taxpayers have any rights here?”

        No, we do not. Not unless he claimed he was speaking on behalf of the government.

      2. Exactly my thought – if there was a young-earth, flat earth, ID creationist in our department, I believe that we would have the right to restrict the activities of such a person.

        1. I’ve tried to make some comments on this thread but none have appeared. So I’;ll try one more time…..

          Unless Eastman made those comments in his class, the government (i.e. the people) have no rights here. I have read the FIRE article and no where does it indicate he made these claims in class. Even if he had, there’d be serious 1st amendment issue to consider. I’m amazed at the line of commentary here.

      3. It’s different with creationism in class because you are not teaching the general subject as it’s accepted by science. If you then go out and talk about creationism in public, you cannot be fired. There’s a huge difference.

    4. I’ll have to disagree. Even if “someone who knowingly is lying and spreading bogus conspiracy theories with no proof or facts to back them up” is *knowingly* spreading proven lies they should be free to speak and be consequently open to criticism, not censorship.

      My view of politics in the USA is that without a Republican narrative being allowed the political debate will centre on Liberals and Woke interactions. Globally the ‘Left’ are famous for their internal splits and political warfare – without the counterweight of ‘Right’ free speech the breakdown of political accommodation will occur all the quicker.

  3. I imagine proponents of such decisions are compelled by a rarefied notion that yes, there are laws and stuff, but sometimes when the law can’t account for clearly terrible events, when there are things so terrible the law cannot help us, there is a layer of law that floats above the law of the land – the law imposed by groups of people who just know they are right, and they decide as a group – independent of the law of the land, what is the correct course to take.

    You see where I’m going with this?

  4. Then there is firing someone for “liking” an Instagram post comparing their political opponents to Nazis.

    I mean, who hasn’t done that? Isn’t it more or less de rigueur for anyone participating in internet threads?

  5. The first Amendment does not protect libelous or slanderous speech. He deliberately lied about what vote counting is all about.

    1. You don’t know that he lied deliberately. Why don’t you get him prosecuted for libel, then, since you’re an interested party and have standing.

      I can see that you’re standing with those college students who can get inside of everybody’s minds and suss out what they really thought. Sorry, but you’re wrong.

      Ah, how fast does the concept of free speech disappear when it’s in the mouth of our enemies. We can apparently think up ANYTHING to silence them.

      1. I am a former Registrar of Voters in Longmeadow, MA. Absentee ballots are usually mail in ballots. Trump tried to spread the lie that they are different. Conscientious poll workers do try to count every ballot. Trump tried to claim that some ballots were illegal. Absentee ballots are filled in and signed under penalty of perjury. Trump was claiming they were distributed as if they were confetti. Absentee ballots are counted if they arrive before the polls close on Election Day. Military personnel are granted a few extra days to get their ballots in to the ballot box. The official count of who voted is not accurate until all the ballots are counted. This professor seems to think that ballots are still counted the way Tammany Hall would count votes. Or follow the model of the Cook County machine under Mayor Daley. Trump wanted to stop the counting when he was leading in the unofficial tally. Trump voters did not use that many absentee ballots. Their ballots were , for the most part, cast in person.This professor of law should have been familiar with the actual working of the balloting process. Trump wanted to exploit peoples’ fears of fraud and it worked for some, who were ignorant of the process. The professor accused the vote counters of illegal activity. He slandered them in his speech and he committed libel when he made a tape of his speech that was broadcast.. Trump is a fascist criminal and this professor aided and abetted his criminal enterprise. That is not protected speech. It also violates “the clear and present danger” doctrine that the Supreme Court has upheld as a rational check on dangerous rhetoric. Your support of free speech is commendable, but this professor lied on purpose to help Trump.

        1. Yeah, see how far you get trying to get the ACLU to prosecute this guy for “aiding a criminal enterprise.” Your hatred of Trump seems to be affecting your judgment. If I were you I would give it a rest on this thread. Lying is not a violation of the First Amendment, but you want to construe that lying as the guy knowing that his own words would help cause the storming of the Capitol.

          That narrative would not be credible to the courts. By the way “helping Trump” is not a criminal violation either, though a lot of people seem to think it is.

        2. Further to the absentee ballots, the R’s in PA went to court to PREVENT even OPENING any absentee ballots until Nov 4. A deliberate attempt to create a situation that they could then bray about.

    2. Statements of opinion — even if demonstrably false — are protected by the First Amendment.

      False statements of material fact meant to defraud someone of their money or property, or meant to harm a person’s reputation or to interfere with a business’s professional relationships, are not protected by the First Amendment.

      The closest thing to defamation I can find in Eastman’s January 6th speech relates to his allegations regarding “machines” (presumably referring to voting machines). I don’t think those statements are specific enough to be actionable. But if they are, voting-machine makers such as Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic USA have demonstrated that they are not at all shy about bringing legal causes of actions seeking damages for such statements.

      Nevertheless, even if those companies were to sue Eastman, any such lawsuits would be private, civil causes of action which, since they do not implicate or expose the University of Colorado to liability, would not serve as a constitutionally sound basis to fire the sweating professor.

  6. This is a very good example to illustrate the difference between what is considered free speech by an individual and what is not by someone who is the president of the United States. Certainly what this guy did is plain old free speech and he should not be fired for saying any of it. However, it is much different when it comes out of the mouth or internet from the president of the U.S. His position, his responsibility is much different than a simple citizen. The school teacher did not take an oath to protect and defend the constitution. His words, as ridiculous and without evidence as they are is nothing more than individual opinion. Out of the president’s mouth it is completely something else. What he says matters and will immediately influence millions. The words undermine our election system and cause chaos in the democratic system. This alone could be an impeachable item by a president and this is, by the way, nothing compared to what Trump has done.

    1. I would put the principle even more succinctly: public officeholders are not protected by the First Amendment from the political consequences of their speech, including political consequences imposed by another branch of government.

      Private citizens, OTOH, are protected by the First Amendment from the government punishing them for their speech, except in certain very narrowly tailored circumstances.

    2. Randall, I do not know about every state, but my state does require teachers to sign an oath saying they will protect and defend the constitution; the fellow who notarized my license application was not satisfied by my signature on the oath, he required that I raise my right hand and read the oath to him. In addition to the oath, teachers in my state were required to take course work in the US Constitution, the state constitution and relevant school law. This requirement has since been suspended, but it was required when I applied for a teacher’s license. Just an FYI.

  7. I am not cavalier about restricting freedom of speech, but I don’t approve of protecting the freedom to tell lies before an angry mob, reinforcing the basis for the violence that ensued. If Eastman sincerely believed the nonsense he spoke, then perhaps the University’s action can be considered a response to his mental illness rather than an undue restriction of his freedom of speech. (Please spare me the references to Soviet trials.)

    1. Sorry, but lies are free speech and are permitted under the conditions that FIRE outlined.

      I am amused, in fact, by the number of ways readers at this website have found to say that he wasn’t exercising freedom of speech. Now it’s “mental illness”? Give me a break. No way does he meet the standard that FIRE outlined.

      1. And he also doesn’t seem to meet any legal or medical criteria for mental illness. If being gullible or biased or prone to errors of judgement constitute legitimate mental illness, then there are a LOT of people who are diagnosable. But a diagnosis of mental illness, as far as I know, is more likely to protect one under the law then to leave one vulnerable, and it certainly doesn’t seem to count as an exception to Freedom of Speech.

      2. At the risk of becoming overly repetitive, I think people generally don’t want to think that their side is the one with skulls on their caps, and it is normal for even well educated and rational people to engage in a bit of rationalization, rather than confront that possibility.

  8. If we owned a small business and we had a worker whose behaviour at work was exemplary and the worker turns out to be a holocaust denier and has become increasingly vocal and say famous outside of work. Their public views are beginning to affect the business’s reputation, ability to perform and the employees’ livelihood; what would we do?

    a) fire the employee?
    b) stick to some principle of free speech?
    c) hope it all goes away?
    d) counsel the employee?
    e) something else?

    Just askin’

    1. I would recommend you should have a contract of sorts for your employees to sign prior to employment. How they are to behave or that they are to not damage the reputation of the business. If you start with this you avoid problems such as this employee later. Even so, you can certainly let the employee go but be ready to go to court.

      If the school had a written agreement with the instructor concerning behavior and damage to the school’s reputation they could then consider firing him for the actions he took.

      1. Yep … a contract that limits one’s rights to express one’s opinions publicly.

        So you want the business to be able to silence opinions that other people might not like.

        So if this person was an atheist and was publicly proselytizing for atheism in a religious community would you feel the same way?

        1. It’s nice to see how well you take advice. Just make stuff up if you have nothing to say. You are not worth talking to.

          1. I am simply testing the envelope around where we can and cannot fire someone for their speech outside of work.

            I thought it was an interesting thought experiment.

    2. As the business owner, you are within your rights to fire someone whose behavior is damaging you. I would counsel them (I don’t know the gender) that if they continue to espouse a lie that the holocaust didn’t happen, they will be fired. If they continue, then fire them.

    3. Private business are free to do any of the above (subject to such contractual obligations as may have been undertaken between employer and employee) without in any way implicating the First Amendment (which solely constrains governmental action).

        1. Well, in certain U.S. states we do have “Right to Work” laws, eh? (I remember years ago hearing of a Tennessee public high school principal gloatingly replying, to a teacher who inquired why he wasn’t being retained, that he didn’t have to give a reason. How admirable, how noble.) There was a time, as a callow high schooler, I was under the impression (delusion?) that the concept of “just cause” obtained here in this the “indispensable nation.” Ah, “American Exceptionalism.” I wonder if “just cause” is covered in business school “Business Ethics” courses here in The Land of the Fee and the Home of the Craven.

        2. In the US, private employees who are not covered by a contract (or, in rare instances, by a specific state statute) are considered “at will” employees who can be fired for any reason or for no reason at all (subject to certain civil-rights laws and ordinances that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, etc.).

          1. Yes I have. The company I worked for … I can’t disclose their intellectual property at least not without their permission.

            But what it has to do with being fired without just cause beats me.

    4. Doesn’t freedom of speech apply differently to public universities than private businesses? So even if the right thing to do under your hypothetical is to fire the employee, I’m not sure that a tax supported university could do the same. So not sure if your analogy holds.

  9. Eastman’s Jan. 6th speech was false and detestable as far as I’m concerned, but it was speech protected by the First Amendment and, thus, cannot serve as the basis for his firing by a public university (if that is, indeed, what happened here).

    The Free Speech clause doesn’t mean crap if doesn’t mean protection for speech merely because one finds such speech detestable.

    1. His lie, that Pence could do anything to stop the certification, lent credence to the call by Trump to storm the capitol and stop it. I think it was directly responsible for the violent aftermath. You can’t attend or watch a Trump rally without knowing for a fact that those people are just waiting to bash someone’s head in for opposing the dear leader.

      1. You know that your argument would not pass muster with a court, not for a second. If you think it would, why don’t you get him prosecuted for incitement to violence?

        There’s nothing that anybody could have said at that rally, apparently, that you couldn’t construe as a violation of the First Amendment because, you know, it “lent credence to Trump”. Sorry, but I don’t buy your argument.

      2. I would highly recommend you watch the democrats positions and speeches made this afternoon as they covered this 1st amendment business very well just an hour or two earlier. And this was done by law professors who know what they are talking about. Jamie teaches this stuff.

    2. As stated above, he was not fired. Eastman surely would have a valid complaint if he had been. His other complaints about his class and his acting as an official CU spokesperson will likely be decided in court.

    1. I think that misses the point. Freedom of speech as a principle and particularly the Constitutional protections for it are more important than one individual’s lies…which, by the way, may no more be “lies” than the beliefs of a young-earth creationist. There’s an issue related to that of mens rea here. If a person believes what they are saying, for what they think are good reasons, it’s difficult to say they are lying in in any simplistic sense. And they would certainly not be considered “malignant” liars. Deluded…yes, almost certainly that, at the very least. But his speech is still protected unless it meets some VERY SPECIFIC criteria, as FIRE pointed out.

      And if his free speech is not to be protected, you SHOULD shed tears, because, the infringement of rights rarely stays constrained to being used only against those with whom one disagrees. Why would it?

      1. I do not doubt his lying speech is protected by the First. But I will not shed tears if UC Boulder finds some legal way to can his sorry ass.

        As to whether he believes his statements, common sense suggests he does not. He is intelligent and well educated and perfectly capable of establishing the truth. If he does not do so it is because he doesn’t want to. He prefers to spread poisonous lies for political and perhaps pecuniary reasons.

        It bothers me that if someone spreads damaging lies about an individual entity, there is a legal means of holding the liar responsible for the damages the lies cause. But if someone spreads lies that poison society and our democracy, which is far more damaging overall, we are helpless.

  10. I am both appalled and amused at the number of people on this thread who say they’re in favor of free speech BUT–and then carve out a number of exceptions that have not been supported by the courts. I suspect the opinions would have been different if some left-wing speaker said something as innocuous but as misguided as this guy did, and then a group of liberal protestors stormed the Capitol of Oregon. The number of reasons people have given for suppressing this guy’s speech are multifarious, including mental illness, lying, incitement to violence (not true), and so on.

    “Free speech for me, but not for thee.”

    1. I would recommend reading Kindly Inquisitors to many folks commenting here. Rauch explains very clearly what happens when free speech is suppressed. Thanks again for the book recommendation Jerry.

    2. Where I am stumbling is: Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s voice of Voltaire’s “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

      I agree with Hall here.
      But as you point out there is a “but”. Where does defending a right end and supporting an opposing view start. In the most ridiculous of cases it might mean I have to donate, fundraise or provide platforms for this “right”. At which it becomes an active support for perhaps an objectionable point of view.

      Is not renewing a contract, somehow preventing this person’s right to express their opinion? Certainly makes it harder for this person to express their opinions, but they did not seem to be too worried about that aspect anyway.

      The right to speak and be heard is still intact. It is just that the University is now no longer in part financing this person.

      This is where I am stumbling.

  11. I wonder if this statement has any bearing on Eastman’s firing: “But we now know, because we caught it live last time in real time, how the machines contributed to that fraud.”

    Smartmatic, the company that makes these “machines” is suing Fox, three Fox hosts and two former Trump lawyers (Giuliani and Powell) for $2.7 billion over spreading the lie that the machines flipped votes. One Fox host, Lou Dobbs was fired after the lawsuit’s filing. Maybe the university is trying to sever ties with someone who is spreading lies that could become a serious financial liability. Either way, I suppose if they fired him for this reason, it is still violating his free speech as applied to a public university.

    1. I read the judges opinions from all the cases in my state and a few from other states. These opinions clearly lay out the reasons why the courts did not find evidence of election fraud. I think they make good reading.

      Despite being rejected by the courts, the fraud argument is going to come up in the legislature because Republicans in my state will introduce laws to restrict voting and fraud will be a campaign issue in the next election (the attorney who brought the fraud case wants to run for Governor).

      As silly and bogus as the fraud argument is, it has and will continue to infect the political process. I have no tolerance for the claims. I will challenge anyone who makes them. While my neighbor may have the freedom to say 42,000 people voted twice, if she says I voted twice, I’ll sue for defamation. When my neighbor says 1 dead person voted (true, under investigation) therefore 1500 dead people voted, I’ll ask for proof. If she has none, I will boldly challenge her free speech right and tell her to put up or shut up.

      Speech has consequences. I know nothing about the specific instance of the CO professor; until I do, I will reserve an opinion. Generally people who make false statements will probably face a consequence of some kind at some time. I have no problem with that.

  12. With all respect due, please don’t open a piece with I suppose I’ll get into trouble by… Claims of persecution that hasn’t occurred are annoying.

    1. Please don’t tell me how to write my pieces. Your statement is rude and completely irrelevant to the argument I made. What on earth moved you to tell me how to write instead of addressing the content of what I said?

      As for “all due respect”, I find that annoying. There is no respect here, just petulance and pedantry.

  13. Sedition is not protected free speech. It is a felony. What this professor abetted seems to be the very definition of sedition:

    https://www.findlaw.com/criminal/criminal-charges/sedition.html

    He told lies about voter fraud to this end. To say he didn’t *know* they were lies beggars belief, because not only has there been zero evidence presented of voter fraud, there is a ton of evidence presented – by multiple officers of Trump’s own cabinets and departments – that there was NO fraud. And he is an erudite man who should know the difference.

    He is very lucky that so far all he has lost is a future academic appointment – he could well have been prosecuted.

    1. This is how I see it, too. For someone in Eastman’s position to lend support to such an outrageous lie in the context of the Jan 6th rally is a seditious act. Proving there was conspiracy in a court of law would be another matter, of course. The issue of free speech doesn’t seem relevant if this was sedition.

    2. Did Hillary commit sedition when she claimed that the 2016 election was “not on the level”, openly questioning the legitimacy of it? Did she have any credible evidence?

      What about when she called for Biden not to concede if he lost?

      These statements could also easily be interpreted as “sedition” given how loosely you are defining it.

      1. Uh, no. Your statements are really easy to shoot down:

        1. Sedition is an attempt to overthrow the government. Questioning the results of an election is something that happens all the time and is not sedition. Of course, Trump questioned the 2020 election but had no evidence. All perfectly legal and not sedition.

        2. Did Hillary Clinton have evidence? Lots of people in the US intelligence community had evidence that the Russians interfered in our election. It’s hard to tell if it made a difference in the outcome though.

        3. Telling Biden not to give in isn’t sedition either. It is just encouragement to pursue legal challenges with vigor. Given that Trump was spreading misinformation about mail-in ballots and voting in general, her advice made a lot of sense.

        1. Hillary’s statements questioning the legitimacy of the 2016 election, to the tune of wondering aloud whether millions of votes were tampered with, are in the same ballpark as what the GOP cranks are claiming.

          Also, her statements before the 2020 election about “not conceding” if they lose use the same broken logic that many on the right use. That is, “if we lost, the election must be rigged. But if we won, everything was on the level.” You clearly have fallen foul of this too. On what basis would she know before the election that Biden would need to pursue legal challenges if he lost??

          We can quibble about whether this is “sedition”, but what is clear that there is a massive inconsistency here with how her unhinged statements were treated by the media compared the similar ridiculous statements from the right.

          I’m afraid many on this thread are simply giving leftist conspiratorial theories about election fraud a pass, because they are part of that tribe.

          1. You aren’t serious. Quibble about whether it’s sedition? There’s no quibble. It isn’t. There was no call to overthrow a government. There was no statement from Hillary Clinton along the lines of “If we lose, it must be rigged.” When our intelligence services all agree that there was Russian election interference, then it is not a “conspiracy theory”. Why do you bother with such nonsense?

          2. Your false equivalency between the 2016 election and the 2020 election is wholly unconvincing, and clearly motivated by your ideological commitment against Clinton. There was and is evidence of foreign interference into the 2016 election, and this has been documented by intelligence agencies and is now a matter of the public record (see the report from Special Counsel Mueller). Given the Electoral College math and the fact that only about 70,000 votes spread across three swing states separated the winner from the loser back then, the foreign interference may indeed have been the deciding factor. Clinton conceded very soon after the votes were counted, but was right to raise concerns about interference. Trump, on the other hand, has stated from 2016 that he would only accept the results of an election that showed him as the winner. Any result that showed his opponent as the winner was–by Trump’s twisted logic–fraudulent. And with the 2020 results, which were not at all close in the same way the 2016 results were, Trump promulgated a torrent of lies, frivolous court challenges, threats to various state officials, and finally, an incitement to his deluded followers on Jan 6th to storm the capitol. Trump and the insurrectionists committed sedition and all those responsible need to be held accountable. Trump and his enablers were attempting to overthrow the newly elected government and disenfranchise millions of voters.

  14. Perhaps it was more of a competence issue. I find it difficult to believe that a lawyer would be talking about voter fraud without having evidence to back it up. If I were in charge of a university and responsible for the education of young lawyers, I would not want to have this guy on my faculty.

    I suspect that Eastman didn’t actually believe the stuff he was saying in his speech and was voluntarily participating in Trump’s “stolen election” effort for his own political interests. Of course, Eastman is free to support Trump and to speak about it but he’s also presumably required by UCB to act like a responsible lawyer.

    Of course, the mob that called for his dismissal probably just didn’t like his politics but the pressure from “supporters” may have been more about not wanting an irresponsible legal mind teach at their university and, of course, negative publicity.

    Of course, this is just me guessing at what might be going on.

  15. In this age of identifying racism by Kendi’s rule – there is either racism or antiracism – one wonders if a decision like this was taken as an opportunity to exert antiracism. And if not, then what made it antiracism to begin with?

  16. I assume Eastman was hired as a lawyer and not a sociologist with a Ph.D.. While I am not an expert on the matter, I believe lawyers have professional ethical responsibilities toward the general defense of the laws and legal system that members of the general public do not. Thus, while a lawyer retains his general free speech rights as citizen, those rights do not necessarily extend to him as a self-identified lawyer who misrepresents the laws or legal system to the general public that brings both discredit to the profession and harm to the general rule of law.

    “ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct:

    [1] A lawyer, as a member of the legal profession, is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice….

    …[5]…A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers and public officials….

    ….[6] In addition, a lawyer should further the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system because legal institutions in a constitutional democracy depend on popular participation and support to maintain their authority….”

    It seems to be if a law school hires a lawyer who breaches his professional ethics that is not a matter of “academic freedom” or “free speech.” Similarly, if a medical school hires a doctor to teach, and that doctor breaches his professional medical ethics by, say, hawking quack medicines on his own time, it seems to me the medical school can remove him for what is an ethical breach. This would not be a matter of academic freedom but rather of professional ethics relating to a professional school.

    This is different than a law or medical professor making idiotic claims on his own time about how climate change is a hoax, etc.

    1. Eastman was hired as a visiting scholar at CU’s Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization, in the area of Conservative Thought and Policy. The Center was established to counter the purported left wing bias permeating the campus. These are generally one year appointments, and in the past there have been some reasonable conservatives. I think that the University knows that it blew the Eastman appointment. https://www.colorado.edu/center/benson/

      1. Note that the the director says that Eastman violated no laws and didn’t violate the First Amendment, though many readers here claim otherwise:

        “The political use of violence is always beyond the pale. It is illegal and immoral, and it is the responsibility of public figures, including public intellectuals, to act responsibly in volatile circumstances. Professor Eastman did not call for the violence that occurred after the event, and his speech is protected by the First Amendment. Nevertheless, I am deeply disappointed by the radical claims Professor Eastman has made without producing adequate evidence and, even more, by the circumstances under which these assertions were made.”

        At the University of Chicago, the statement would have stopped at “Professor Eastman had the right to say what he said”. The other stuff is gratuitous. Who cares what the director thought? That is just an attempt to chill speech from members of the Institute.

        1. That your statements or conduct is protected by general free speech Constitutional guidelines does not mean that the speech in question does not, nevertheless, violate professional or academic ethical guidelines that can warrant sanction.

          For example, it is a professional ethical breach for a CPA to advertise that he is “the greatest international tax expert in the world” although that statement is nevertheless protected free speech. However, the state can “disbar” the CPA for making such claims as a violation of professional ethics. CPAs, like licensed lawyers, have a professional duty to the public that forbids them from certain conduct otherwise allowable to a generic citizen. That by definition is why they are “licensed professionals” and why a pharmacist can’t claim to be a neurosurgeon.

          If an accounting department hires a CPA in that capacity to train accounting professionals, and that CPA is in ethical violation of those professional standards, the department can remove the person just for that reason because as it is a professional program that purports to hire qualified professional faculty members. That has nothing to do with “free speech.” Academic departments can (and do) establish objective ethical standards and can fire a professor because of a violation of such even though his conduct was otherwise “legal” (e.g., not felonious). Pure legality is not the standard in the professions, academia, or institutions in general.

          UCB did not fire Eastman so the point is moot. But it listed his main credential as his being a licensed attorney. It is not “illegal” to let your legal license lapse for various reasons or otherwise not comply with professional ethical standards. But if you do, and the university hired you based on your professional credentials, it can fire you if those facts change.

          I am pretty sure the University of Chicago Law School would agree that it can fire a law professor who is disbarred for conduct that, while not actually felonious, violates legal professional ethics. I doubt that the University of Chicago, a bastion of academic freedom, would view this as a “free speech” issue because it is simply not.

  17. I cannot speak to that. The Center is not a part of the law school, but he is purportedly a scholar of Constitutional Law and Religious Freedom. He taught “American Political Thought” and “Foundations of Western Civilization” in the fall in the College of Arts and Sciences, and had a grand total of 8 students registered in two courses this spring. Previous appointees including my colleague Robert Kaufman have been recognized scholars in conservative thought, perspective and policy. I believe that the Center simply blew it with Eastman because a cursory evaluation would indicate that he has some very cockeyed opinions.

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