Judge asked to order Morgan Lewis, two lawyers and Eric Trump to comply with state subpoenas
Eric Trump at a North Carolina campaign event in March. Photo by Jeffery Edwards / Shutterstock.com
New York Attorney General Letitia James has asked a judge to compel testimony by Eric Trump and two lawyers who have done work for the Trump Organization, including a Morgan, Lewis & Bockius partner.
The two lawyers are land-use lawyer Charles Martabano and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius partner Sheri Dillon, who has served as tax counsel for President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization.
James is also asking the judge to compel Morgan Lewis and the Trump Organization to comply with subpoenas for documents. James filed the motion to compel on Friday.
Eric Trump is executive vice president of the Trump Organization. He was scheduled for an interview with the attorney general’s office last month but refused to appear.
James opened the investigation in 2019 after Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen testified before Congress that the Trump Organization inflated the value of assets in obtaining loans and insurance coverage, but deflated asset value to reduce real estate taxes.
Among the properties being investigated are the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles and the office tower at 40 Wall Street in Manhattan.
In a memorandum of law, James argues Martabano withheld responsive documents identified on a privilege log “containing—at best—boilerplate statements of privilege.”
Out of 344 documents identified on the log, 268 identify the documents only by an ID number and a statement of the claimed privilege, “nothing more,” the memorandum of law says. The other 76 entries contain only “basic bibliographic information (including sender, subject, and date), along with “the same bare statements of claimed privilege.”
The legal memorandum also says attorney-client privilege does not cover projects “quarterbacked” by Dillon and her associates to establish the value of possible conservation easement donations on Trump properties. “Coordinating the work necessary to evaluate the economic benefit of, and then obtain, a conservation easement is a business role” and doesn’t concern legal issues, the memorandum says.
Dillon and her associates obtained multiple valuations of property before the easement donations, according to the legal memorandum and an affirmation by a lawyer in James’ office.
The memorandum also claims Morgan Lewis has withheld or redacted more than 2,500 documents “on broad and unsupportable claims of work-product protection.” Documents drafted to satisfy tax valuation requirements aren’t protected work product prepared to assist in anticipated litigation, the document argues. Rather, the withheld documents are business work that a consultant could perform, James argues.
Dillon had claimed the Trump Organization was “under continuous audit,” which meant her work was done in anticipation of litigation, the legal memorandum said.
James is also seeking about 24 records from Morgan Lewis concerning an apparent settlement.
Dillon and Martabano did not immediately respond to the ABA Journal’s email requests for comment.
Morgan Lewis gave this statement to the ABA Journal:
“The [New York State attorney general] is contending that certain communications involving Morgan Lewis attorneys are not protected by the attorney-client privilege and/or attorney work product doctrine. The NYSAG is seeking an order compelling Morgan Lewis to produce such communications and to provide testimony concerning them. Morgan Lewis is not accused of any misconduct or wrongdoing. We will respond specifically to the NYSAG’s contentions in our filings with the court.”