Michael Cohen’s lawyers are trying to prevent Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti from turning the criminal investigation of their client into a carnival, and rightfully so.
It should surprise no one that Avenatti is trying to “intervene” in the pending case relating to the seizure of documents from Cohen, Trump’s lawyer. Avenatti, a California lawyer, is not licensed in New York, and has to ask the court permission to appear in cases here.
Indeed, the court ordered Avenatti to make the appropriate request if he wants to intervene in the matter. On May 14, 2018, Avenatti filed a sworn affidavit in support of his motion to be admitted “pro hac vice,” Latin for “for this occasion.”
Avenatti’s affidavit is laughable. It includes a page and a half of his professional “accomplishments,” including him bragging about serving as lead counsel in cases resulting in verdicts and settlement totaling more than $1 billion. These types of things simply don’t belong in an application of this nature. A pro hac vice application is about as vanilla as they come.
Pro hac vice applications are very common, and usually not met with opposition. Courts respect a client’s choice in attorney, and as long the attorney is in good standing in his or her home state and there are no pending disciplinary matters against the lawyer, the motions are typically granted.
But Avenatti is a joker, so it’s not surprising Cohen’s lawyers oppose his request to practice in federal court in the Southern District of New York. Cohen’s lawyers have raised several non-frivolous points and have the stronger argument.
Notably, Cohen’s lawyers reiterate a cause of concern they raised with the court previously: Avenatti’s leaks of Cohen’s private banking records. Earlier this month, I wrote about that disclosure and Avenatti’s potentially unethical conduct. Cohen’s lawyers argue that Avenatti’s actions violate both the rules of the court and of professional responsibility governing lawyers’ actions.
They also highlight how Avenatti’s affidavit, sworn to under penalties of perjury, failed to mention an ongoing investigation into him by the California Bar Association. (The State Bar of California confirmed the investigation in an April 18 letter by Supervising Attorney Anand Kumar.) Avenatti responded that he has not been made aware of any such investigation.
I don’t know precisely how investigations into attorneys work in California, but I find it surprising that the supervising attorney would issue a statement confirming the investigation yet not notify Avenatti. That said, given his busy television appearance schedule, Avenatti is not exactly a regular presence in his Orange County office, so there could be an unopened letter on his desk.
Cohen’s lawyers deride Avenatti for his “craving to create a carnival atmosphere.” A truer statement has never been written in an opposition to a motion for pro hac vice admission. The lawyers also hit the nail on the head with this: “To our knowledge, this Court has never been presented with clearer evidence of the deliberate creation of a carnival atmosphere and inappropriate conduct while an attorney’s application for admission as pending.” If there were ever an application that warranted denial, this is it.
This brings me back to my extreme distaste for Avenatti and his antics. Let’s call a spade a spade: he is not intervening in Cohen’s case because he is truly concerned about protecting Daniels’ rights. He is intervening for one reason only: to stay relevant. He’ll go on any television program that will have him, and staying relevant is the way to continue his constant TV bookings. He really belongs on Maury Povich and Jerry Springer, not CNN and MSNBC.
Cohen’s attorneys are doing exactly the right thing in attempting to keep Avenatti out. They are acting in the best interest of their client, a concept foreign to Avenatti. Cohen is being investigated for various federal crimes. That’s serious. The penalties can be serious. His lawyers are doing exactly what I would do in this situation, and that’s keep a serious proceeding free from Avenatti and his shenanigans.
I sort of wish Cohen’s lawyers would have included some of Avenatti’s recent threats against journalists who publish articles about him he doesn’t like. He threatened to sue several journalists personally, and called one an “a–hole” then trolled him on Twitter.
One final note. I can’t say whether it was intentional, but of all of Cohen’s lawyers, the one that signed the latest attack on Avenatti practices in Washington DC and was himself admitted to the court pro hac vice. Perhaps too cute if a troll, but savage nonetheless.