U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood forcefully reprimanded attorney Michael Avenatti Wednesday during a hearing on his motion to intervene in the federal case against embattled Trump-fixer Michael Cohen, advising that he must curtail his media appearances if he hopes to participate in the proceedings.
Following Wednesday’s conference, Avenatti withdrew his motion to appear in the Cohen case.
Avenatti, who represents adult film actress Stephanie Clifford — known professionally as Stormy Daniels — in an ongoing civil action against President Donald Trump, has spoken widely in the press about the criminal case against Cohen in a New York federal court. The tenor of his public campaign against Cohen, and the tactics on which he relied, were not well received by Wood.
“This conduct is inimical to eventually giving Mr. Cohen a fair trial,” the judge said of Avenatti, lately a fixture on the cable news circuit, according to a New York Daily News reporter present for the proceedings. She then warned him to immediately conclude his “publicity tour.”
Wood on Avenatti: “I want you to participate, or not be in the matter at all.
I don’t want you to be in some sort of limbo where you’re able to denigrate Mr. Cohen…This conduct is inimical to eventually giving Mr. Cohen a fair trial (if that happens).”
— Stephen Brown (@PPVSRB) May 30, 2018
Rule 3.6 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct provides that attorneys should not make out of court statements which could prejudice a pending matter. Wood indicated that she believes Avenatti is bound by the New York rules, and that he has repeatedly violated them when impugning guilt to Cohen in interviews with the press. (RELATED: Why Avenatti’s Financial Past Hurts Stormy Daniels)
“You cannot declare your opinion as to Mr Cohen’s guilt, which you did,” she said at Wednesday’s hearing.
Cohen’s lawyers sharply rebuked Avenatti for disclosing sensitive information relating to Cohen’s finances. Some of the records he released pertained to other Michael Cohens unrelated to the president or the case at hand. Defense lawyers characterized the action as “a drive-by shooting of anyone named Michael Cohen.”
In turn, Avenatti said he “did not do anything improper relating to the release of any information concerning Mr. Cohen.”
At another remarkable juncture, Avenatti argued the bankruptcy of his former law practice, Eagan Avenatti LLP, was not germane to the Cohen case, since Clifford was never a client of the firm. In turn, an attorney representing President Donald Trump produced emails showing Avenatti used his defunct firm’s email domain to communicate about Clifford’s case. The attorney, Joanna Hendon of Spears & Imes LLP, accused Avenatti of making “not straightforward and cute” representations.”
Avenatti withdrew his motion to appear without prejudice, meaning he reserves the right to seek admission to the court at a future date.
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