Rep. Eastman’s trial concludes, decision now lies with the judge

Closing arguments were held virtually Wednesday morning
Closing arguments were held virtually Wednesday morning
Published: Dec. 21, 2022 at 6:54 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - After both sides rested their cases Tuesday in the case questioning Rep. David Eastman’s eligibility for office, closing arguments were heard by Superior Court Judge Jack McKenna Wednesday morning.

Party attornies were allotted 30 minutes each to make their final statements on the record regarding the bench trial of Randall Kowalke v. David Eastman.

Kowalke, a constituent of Eastman, filed a lawsuit against the Wasilla representative on Jul. 29 of this year claiming that Eastman’s active lifetime membership with the Oath Keepers organization violates the Disqualification for Disloyalty clause of the Alaska Constitution.

Article XII, Section IV states that “No person who advocates, or who aids or belongs to any party or organization or association which advocates, the overthrow by force or violence of the government of the United States or of the State shall be qualified to hold any public office of trust or profit under this constitution.”

The plaintiff’s side set out to prove two things; that Eastman is a member of the Oath Keepers organization, and that the group attempted to overthrow the United States government during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Eastman’s active lifetime membership was proved early on when he took the stand and openly admitted his affiliation. After a number of expert and witness testimonies for both the plaintiff and defense teams, attornies from both sides made their final statements on record Wednesday.

Eastman’s attorney Joe Miller reinforced his stance that speech — including that which advocates for the force or violence to overthrow the government — is constitutionally protected under the First Amendment. The attorney for Kowalke, the plaintiff, painted a different picture before the judge, stating that it’s proved that the words and actions used on Jan. 6 go beyond protected rights to free speech.

For the first time since the trial began hearings, the Division of Elections — who is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit — spoke on the record during closing arguments and motioned for a directed verdict.

After closing statements concluded, Superior Court Judge Jack McKenna thanked all parties for their work in the expedited trial and stated the timeline of appeal will be triggered upon the court’s final order. The judge did not indicate when he will make the ruling, but one is expected soon.