Attorney Eastman Faces D.C. Disbarment
In Setback for Trump’s Criminal Defense


     Former Trump administration lawyer John Eastman appears to be headed toward disbarment in the District of Columbia in a potential blow to the former president’s criminal defense.
     Eastman lost his California license to practice law late last month.
     Eastman has been criminally indicted in Georgia and on March 30 was listed as “involuntary inactive” by the California State Bar for his effort to keep former President Donald Trump in office after his 2020 election defeat.
     Eastman also is licensed as an attorney in the District of Columbia, which normally reciprocates on disciplinary action in other jurisdictions.
     Although Eastman plans to appeal, his disbarment creates a legal dilemma for Trump as he faces prosecution in federal court in Washington, D.C., on election interference charges.
     Trump has indicated he plans to base some of his defense on the fact he relied on legal advice from Eastman as he sought to block Congress from certifying the election win by Joe Biden.
     The “advice of counsel” defense traditionally is used by criminal defendants to argue they lacked the intent to commit a crime.
     However, if the attorney who provided the advice was a co-conspirator, the defense of relying on advice of counsel disappears as a means of proving innocence.
     A 128-page decision written by California State Bar Judge Yvette Roland concluded Eastman was a conspirator in illegally trying to overturn the election.
     Roland wrote that “this disciplinary proceeding boils down to an analysis of whether or not Eastman, in his role as the attorney for then-President Donald Trump and his re-election campaign, acted dishonestly in his comments and advice given regarding the issue of whether then-Vice President Mike Pence had authority to unilaterally reject certain states’ slate of electors and/or delay or recess the electoral count during the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021…”
     Eastman is known to have pressured Pence to reject the votes of electors from crucial swing states that Biden won. He told Pence the vice president had constitutional authority to block the election certification vote in Congress.
     Pence refused to accept Eastman's advice.
     After the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol, Eastman emailed an attorney for the vice president’s office asking him to violate the Electoral Count Act by delaying the election certification. The attorney, Greg Jacob, responded by calling Eastman a "serpent in the ear of the president.”
     Eastman was charged with 11 counts of attorney misconduct. They included failing to support the Constitution and laws of the United States, seeking to mislead a court and moral turpitude.
     He was found guilty on 10 of the 11 counts. One count of moral turpitude was dismissed.
     The disbarment proceedings appear to address an issue raised in Congress of whether it was reasonable for Trump to rely on Eastman’s advice.
     Eastman told Trump that he could allege voter fraud to challenge the election, despite notice from the Justice Department and other White House lawyers that there was no fraud. 
     The House Jan. 6 committee also reported there was no election fraud.
     Former U.S. attorney general William Barr said about Trump in a CNN interview last year, “He wouldn’t listen to all the lawyers in the [Justice] Department… He would search for a lawyer who would give him the advice he wanted.”
     Any disbarment proceeding in Washington, D.C., would require a recommendation from the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel to the D.C. Court of Appeals, which would make the final decision.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Senate Investigates Equity Firms’
Control Over Healthcare Facilities


     A Senate committee sent letters to three private equity firms last week demanding information about how they staff emergency departments of hospitals they own.
     The firms have become frequent targets of lawsuits in recent years for allegedly skimping on health care to maximize profits while sharply increasing litigation against medical insurers.
     “While [private equity]-backed health care entities have already been aggressively pursuing plaintiff-side litigation—especially against health insurers—the volume of PE-related involvement in commercial and other types of health care litigation is very much on the rise,” said Rochelle-Leigh Rosenberg, a partner in Crowell & Moring’s Washington office.
     The Senate investigation was prompted by reports from doctors about anti-competitive business practices and retaliation against staff members who complained.
     The letters from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee gave the investment firms until April 17 to respond.
     “While these issues are not limited to private equity, they are exacerbated by the private equity business model, which hinges on highly leveraged debt, little equity, and the need to obtain outsized returns within a limited time,” says the letter to the chief executive officers of Apollo Global Management and US Acute Care Solutions.
     Private equity firms operate about one-third of the nation’s emergency departments, according to the Senate committee.
     The Senate is investigating the three largest private equity firms, namely Apollo Global Management, the Blackstone Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR). Blackstone, the biggest of the three, raised $125.6 billion over the past five years, according to a U.S. News and World Report article published in February.
     Private equity firms provide financial backing to companies through investment strategies such as venture capital and leveraged buyouts. They have invested about $1 trillion in the healthcare industry in recent years.
     To finance their growth, the firms sometimes assume large amounts of debt, drastically cut costs to increase their earnings then sell out to new buyers at a profit that is distributed among investors.
     In the Washington area, private firms operate Howard University Hospital and BridgePoint Continuing Care Hospital - Capitol Hill in the District of Columbia and Fauquier Hospital in Warrenton, Va.
     The Journal of the American Medical Association reported last year that a review of 300 hospitals demonstrated a 25 percent increase in serious adverse health problems for patients after the hospitals were acquired by private equity firms.
     The most likely reason was fewer employees to care for patients, JAMA reported.
     Envision Healthcare, formerly owned by KKR, said in a statement, “Our clinicians care for patients and communities in their greatest time of need. Our number one priority is always the well-being of our clinicians and the patients they serve.”
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Virginia Company Must Pay $811 Million
After Allegedly Exploiting Immigrants


     A federal court ordered a Virginia company last week to pay $811 million in a lawsuit that accused them of making inflated promises to help detained illegal immigrants win release on bond while their claims were processed.
     The company, Nexus Services and its subsidiary Libre by Nexus, allegedly misrepresented the services they provided to immigrants, according to the judgment in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.
     The company is based in Verona, Va., but has offices in Arlington. The consumer protection lawsuit was filed by Falls Church-based Legal Aid Justice Center and joined by the attorneys general of Virginia, Massachusetts and New York.
     It said the company sought to evade regulations that would prevent bail companies from engaging in similar business practices. 
     “Libre attempts to camouflage its practices by casting itself as a champion of immigrants and a re-uniter of families, when in reality its scheme traps desperate immigrants into paying thousands of dollars,” the lawsuit said.
     The court’s ruling largely agreed, saying Nexus Services is not a bail bond company but a “service provider that acts as an intermediary between immigration detainees and sureties and their bond agents.”
     The company allegedly collected thousands of dollars more than the bonds immigrants were required to post to secure their release. After release, they were forced to wear ankle monitors.
     Nexus Services must pay about $231 million to compensate its customers. It must pay penalties of $13.8 million to New York, $7.1 million to Virginia and $3.4 million to Massachusetts.
     In addition, its subsidiary Libre by Nexus and its three executives must each pay more than $111 million in civil penalties.
     Nexus officials argued they helped to free thousands of immigrants who otherwise would remain jailed if they could not pay the full bond, which could run more than $10,000.
     Under the company’s business model, immigrants or their families would pay a percentage of their bond to Nexus followed by monthly payments.
     New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement, “This judgment is a victory for thousands of immigrant families who lost their life savings and were targeted and preyed on by Libre.”
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Senate Plans to Clamp Down 
On Conservative Judge Shopping
 

     The U.S. Senate is considering legislation to stop judge shopping after a Texas federal judge rejected pleas to revise his jurisdiction’s method for assigning cases.
     The threat to use legislation to force federal judges to follow a case assignment procedure recommended by the Judicial Conference of the United States came from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
     He wrote a letter last month to U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey, chief judge in the Northern District of Texas, encouraging him to implement the new procedure.
     The Northern District of Texas is preferred by conservative political advocates to challenge government policies because of some of the one or two-judge courts' tendency to side with them. Examples include conservative rulings on illegal immigration, gay rights, abortion and climate change.
     As a response to complaints about judge-shopping, the U.S. Judicial Conference announced a policy that requires lawsuits seeking injunctions against enforcement of state or federal laws to be assigned randomly to judges throughout a federal district.
     The policy bans the lawsuits from being filed in specific courthouses, divisions or in the larger district. The Judicial Conference sets policy for the judiciary.
     Godbey responded to Schumer with a letter last week saying the Northern District would not change its case assignment procedure.
     He appeared to invoke the Constitutional separation of powers when he wrote that federal law gives courts "wide latitude to establish case assignment systems" most appropriate for each district. 
     "The district judges of the Northern District of Texas met on March 27, 2024, and discussed case assignment,” Godbey wrote. “The consensus was not to make any change to our case assignment process at this time."
     Schumer responded by sharply criticizing the Texas judges.
     "It is unfortunate that Chief Judge Godbey and the district judges of the Northern District of Texas have decided to continue to allow the odious practice of judge shopping,” Schumer said in a statement.
     He added, "The Senate will consider legislative options that put an end to this misguided practice."
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Lawmakers Plan Data Privacy Law
Giving Consumers Lawsuit Rights


     The heads of the House and Senate commerce committees reached an agreement on a data privacy bill this week that would override state laws limiting what information corporations can gather on private individuals.
     It also would give consumers a right to delete their private information from corporate databases and to sue when their privacy is invaded.
     The American Privacy Rights Act would set a single national standard that replaces 15 state laws, including one in Virginia.
     The bill results from an agreement between Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who chairs the Commerce Committee, and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
     The planned bill  “gives Americans the right to control where their information goes and who can sell it,” McMorris Rodgers said. “It reins in Big Tech by prohibiting them from tracking, predicting and manipulating people’s behaviors for profit without their knowledge and consent.”
     Other provisions give consumers the ability to opt out of targeted advertising and require disclosure if their data is transferred to foreign adversaries.
     Corporations would be allowed under the draft bill to gather only the data on businesses and individuals they "actually need to provide them products and services."
     Previous attempts in Congress to approve a data privacy law failed to win approval, largely because they would not have preempted state laws and lacked effective enforcement mechanisms.
     Enforcement under the American Privacy Rights Act would be overseen by state attorneys general and a new bureau within the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC could issue fines for privacy violations.
     Rodgers and Cantwell’s draft data privacy bill won an endorsement from J. Trevor Hughes, president of the International Association of Privacy Professionals.
     “The U.S. is an outlier in the global economy" without a comprehensive privacy law, Hughes said. "That might change this year."
     The draft bill is in discussion among congressional committees that might seek to revise it before it is introduced.
     Retailers and financial organizations are expected to be some of the primary targets of any new privacy enforcement. Telecommunications companies also would be required to comply.
     The planned legislation is an outgrowth of congressional hearings into social media companies like Meta, Google, Twitter and TikTok.
     They were accused of widespread privacy violations as they tracked use of their platforms by consumers. They would transfer the data to advertisers to help them target their ads to consumers most likely to purchase their products or services.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.