Michael Avenatti’s Attention-Sucking Is An Embarrassment To Lawyers Everywhere

Michael Avenatti’s Attention-Sucking Is An Embarrassment To Lawyers Everywhere

If Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti truly feels he has a strong case, he would wait while it played out in court. Instead, he has bought a ticket to the circus.
Caroline Court
By

Like an obsessed ex-boyfriend, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti will not go away. Being on cable news has become an addiction to him. He craves it, and when he doesn’t get it, he acts out.

Avenatti’s latest stunt is a defamation lawsuit he filed yesterday against the president based on Trump’s tweet calling the man in a sketch, which she says resembles a man who threatened her, “nonexistent” and a “total con job.” The lawsuit has already been described as “questionable” and “weak.” Indeed, the complaint seems to stretch the applicable law so thin at times it is nearly see-through.

Last week, after previously complaining on CNN that Fox News would not have him on, Avenatti was scheduled to appear on “The Story with Martha MacCallum.” He apparently had to cancel and MacCallum addressed his cancellation at the end of her show. She commented that he “abruptly cancelled the interview, despite his pledge to appear on Fox News this week.”

Avanetti shot back on Twitter, calling MacCallum “classless” and saying he had to cancel “due to a commitment with the case.” Even if that’s true, publicly lashing out and calling MacCallum classless for a seemingly innocuous statement is unseemly for an attorney.

As I wrote previously, this attorney feels strongly that attorneys have a responsibility to act with dignity and handle themselves in a professional manner at all times. Instead, Avenatti seems intent on spewing “legal buffoonery” (to borrow his own phrase) to stay relevant. Avenatti is content to continue to take the media for a ride, and publicize himself along the way.

On April 22, Avenatti was a guest on Brain Stelter’s CNN show “Reliable Sources” (I always laugh derisively at the show’s name). Avenatti had nothing of substance to contribute other than a feeble attempt to fan the flames of the media-created hysteria about Sean Hannity being revealed as an associate of Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

Avenatti boasted that it will be “embarrassing” for Hannity when the extent of his relationship with Cohen comes out. The attorney in him, however, did make a brief appearance, as he was quick to add: “I don’t know that there is anything nefarious that went on between Mr. Hannity and Mr. Cohen.” So, here’s a thought, maybe don’t opine about it then?

During that same appearance, Avenatti couldn’t help himself and took a shot at Cohen, who in addition to being a fellow lawyer is also a party to litigation in which Avenatti represents the plaintiff. In reference to Hannity’s statement that he gave Cohen $10 to retain him for legal advice, Avenatti quipped, “he overpaid by $9 if that’s true.” I cringed as I watched an attorney on national television act like an eight-year-old on the playground hurling insults. Avenatti also recently made a dig at Cohen’s law school. It’s astonishing to me that an attorney would behave this way, particularly an attorney in the national spotlight.

In his continued plight to make something out of nothing, when it was revealed that Cohen would invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege to remain silent in civil litigation, Avenatti tweeted it was a “stunning development.” As I explained on Twitter, however, this is hardly stunning. When faced with a criminal investigation, nearly anyone—whether that person is a lawyer for the president or O.J. Simpson—is going to invoke the Fifth Amendment in a civil proceeding.

But who cares about basic legal norms. Avenatti has got to get those favs and retweets on Twitter, right?

His three-ring act continued when he filed a motion to intervene in the case surrounding the search of Cohen’s home and office. For reasons unknown to this author, Avenatti thinks privileged communications between his client and her attorney who negotiated her non-disclosure agreement with Trump would be found during the search of Cohen’s office. Putting aside the merits of the motion, it’s not hard to see what Avenatti is doing—he will take any opportunity to get his narrative out there.

What was most odd, however, was the content of the motion. It read like a bad script at times. For example, it needlessly refers to the “Access Hollywood” tape of Trump’s “p-ssy-grabbing” comments and refers to Cohen as Trump’s “fixer.” It reads: “Ms. Clifford [the real name of Stormy Daniels] began an intimate relationship with Mr. Trump in the summer of 2006 and continued her relationship with Mr. Trump well into the year 2007.” (If I correctly recall Daniels’ “60 Minutes” interview, that intimate relationship started and ended one night in 2006.)

The court filing goes on to state that “Mr. Cohen … aggressively sought to silence Ms. Clifford as part of an effort to avoid her telling the truth, thus helping to ensure Mr. Trump won the 2016 Presidential Election.” So does Avenatti not remember all of the other unseemly allegations made about Trump during the election? I’m fairly sure a one-night stand with an onscreen prostitute wouldn’t have tipped the scales against him. But I digress.

Avenatti also recently appeared on Showtime’s “The Circus,” in an episode called “Too Many Lawyers.” It featured Avenatti leaving the federal courthouse in New York after a hearing related to Cohen. It shows him being whisked away into a black car with one of the show’s hosts. What struck me most, however, was how Avenatti appeared and spoke on camera. He cursed and dropped the F-bomb. Now, everyone curses. I curse a lot. But again, here is an attorney in the national spotlight acting like someone with no class.

In a bonus clip, he is shown on the phone asking someone to call Judge Wood’s chambers and see about getting security for Daniels. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes because people who regularly practice before Wood know that her individual rules clearly state telephone calls to chambers are only permitted in case of emergency. But we all know Avenatti thinks he’s special and above the rules.

I don’t know a single (professional) lawyer who would call chambers about protecting his or her client. Why not just call the marshals directly? Not only are the marshals physically located at the courthouse, they actually have phones there. You, and even he, may think this is no big deal. But I can’t stress enough that professional lawyers follow the rules and recognize the importance of behaving in a manner that shows respect for the profession. But again, I digress.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, late last week, Avenatti was in Washington DC for the events relating to the White House Correspondents dinner.

As I wrote previously, I get what Avenatti is doing. Some have said he’s simply playing Trump’s own game. With the latest lawsuit, it’s not inconceivable that Avenatti is praying the president tweets something he thinks he can use to further his cases. But attorneys are subject to Rule of Professional Conduct, and are not supposed to file frivolous lawsuits. An attorney trolling the president of the United States is simply an embarrassment.

Any competent lawyer will tell you that when you have the winning case, you don’t need to act like a buffoon or a blowhard. You let the facts speak for themselves. If Avenatti truly feels he has a strong case, he would wait while it played out in court. Instead, he has elected to buy a ticket to the circus.

If you don’t think Trump’s over-the-top behavior is okay, it’s difficult to cheer on an attorney behaving similarly. As someone recently tweeted, “If you become Trump, then Trump wins.” Avenatti might think he’s one-upping the president, but he’s making a mockery of both himself and the legal profession instead.

@beyondreasdoubt is a criminal defense attorney in New York City. You can find her musings on Twitter.

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