Former Chapman law professor sues to get seized phone back

John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, testifies during a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee June 4, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, testifies during a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee June 4, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Photo credit Alex Wong/Getty Images

SANTA ANA (CNS) - Former Chapman University law school dean John Eastman filed a lawsuit in federal court in New Mexico today demanding that federal investigators return his smartphone, which was seized last week.

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Eastman, who served as former President Donald Trump's attorney as he battled election results in 2020, said federal agents served a search warrant on him as he exited a restaurant on Wednesday.
He said he was forced to unlock the iPhone Pro 12 device.

Eastman said he asked to see the warrant authorizing the seizure, but was refused. Then he was "frisked" and the phone was taken, he said.

Eastman said he was eventually given a copy of the search warrant, but not a "supporting affidavit referenced in it."

Eastman said the agents told him they were from the FBI, but he said the warrant appeared to have been issued by the Department of Justice's Office of Inspector General.

Eastman argued that the seizure was unconstitutional for a variety of reasons, including that it was an "overbroad" search and that the Office of Inspector General had no jurisdiction over him since Eastman never worked for the Department of Justice.

Eastman also argued that some of the data on the phone includes his work as an attorney, which would be protected by attorney-client and work product privacy privileges.

Eastman has been in a legal battle with the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection throughout the year, and the news of the phone seizure comes as the committee announced an unanticipated hearing on Tuesday regarding "new evidence."

U.S. District David O. Carter has ruled that hundreds of emails the committee had sought were protected by work product and attorney-client privileges, but he said many others Eastman sought to keep private had to be turned over as the federal judge found there was evidence they fell under a clause regarding a criminal conspiracy that overcomes the privacy guarantees.

The criminal conspiracy Carter cited involved an alleged plan to have an alternate set of electors established in various states where the election was close, creating a dispute that former Vice President Mike Pence could decide and swing the election to Trump.

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