U.S. Supreme Court rejects case involving Trump-aligned lawyer Eastman

FILE PHOTO: Attorney John Eastman gestures as he speaks next to U.S. President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani at the January 6 Trump rally on the Ellipse in Washington
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By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear a California Republican club's challenge to a private organization's cancellation of a 2017 event at a city-owned property in Pasadena that was to have featured a conservative lawyer later aligned with former President Donald Trump.

The justices turned away the Pasadena Republican Club's appeal of a lower court ruling that found that the cancellation of attorney John Eastman's planned appearance did not violate the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, which bars government discrimination on free speech or religious grounds.

Eastman played a role in Trump's failed bid to overturn his 2020 re-election loss based on false claims of widespread voting fraud.

The property at issue, the Maxwell House, is owned by the city of Pasadena, which leased it to the Western Justice Center, a nonprofit organization that focuses on conflict resolution. Space in the Maxwell House is made available for rent for events including weddings.

The Pasadena Republican Club had wanted to rent space there so Eastman could appear as a guest speaker, but the Western Justice Center canceled the event because his opposition to same-sex marriage and other expansions of LGBT rights ran counter to the group's values.

Eastman was a professor at Chapman University School of Law at the time. Eastman is the chairman of the board of the National Organization for Marriage, which was active in the fight against legalizing gay marriage.

In the Republican club's 2018 lawsuit, its lawyers said the First Amendment applied because the Western Justice Center was effectively an arm of the government based on its lease of city property. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February ruled against the Republican group.

Eastman achieved a higher profile with his affiliation with Trump. He spoke at a rally where Trump addressed his supporters before the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Eastman also wrote a memo outlining how, in his view, then-Vice President Mike Pence could thwart the formal congressional certification of Trump's 2020 re-election loss. Pence ultimately declined to follow Eastman's advice. Eastman left his post at Chapman University days after the riot amid criticism of his actions.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)