Law Firms

Judge refuses privilege review bid by Cohen and Trump lawyers: Were BigLaw documents seized?

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Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen

A federal judge in Manhattan on Monday turned down a request by lawyers for President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to conduct their own privilege review of documents seized from Cohen in an FBI raid last week.

U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood indicated, however, she was considering appointing a special master, report the New York Times, Bloomberg News and the Associated Press. According to AP, the special master could play a role at a later time to aid “the perception of fairness.”

The special master idea was a fallback position advanced by Cohen’s lawyers at McDermott Will and Emery, who had contended that Cohen’s legal team should be allowed to make a first-cut review to determine whether seized documents can be withheld because they are privileged.

Lawyers for both Cohen and Trump had urged Wood to bar federal prosecutors from conducting the privilege review. But Wood said at the Monday hearing that she had faith in the Manhattan federal prosecutors. “Their integrity is unimpeachable,” she said.

It wasn’t the only loss for Cohen and his lawyers during the court hearing Monday. Lawyer Stephen Ryan also lost a bid to keep secret a mystery client of Cohen’s he described as a “prominent person” who would be embarrassed by the revelation, the New York Times reports in a separate story. Wood ordered the client revealed after a lawyer representing various media outlets argued embarrassment wasn’t enough reason to keep the name secret.

The client was Fox News personality Sean Hannity. He is one of three clients of Cohen’s in the past year. The other two are Trump and GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy. Other news outlets with coverage include the Wall Street Journal and Politico.

Hannity later said that Cohen never represented him in any matter, though they had some “brief discussions” about legal issues.

Wood’s decisions come after Cohen’s lawyers filed a letter with the court on Monday that said the documents seized last week may include information from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and Squire Patton Boggs, the New York Law Journal reports. The latter firm, identified in the letter as “Law Firm-1” had a “strategic alliance’ with Cohen, but the law firm said after the raid that the alliance had ended.

FBI agents on April 9 raided Cohen’s office at Squire Patton Boggs, his home, a hotel room where he was staying during renovations at his home, and his safe deposit box.

The letter filed with the court said Cohen had referred “approximately five” clients to Squire Patton Boggs, and it was deferring to the law firm and its clients to assert a privilege claim. Square Patton Boggs told the New York Law Journal that Cohen was never an employee or partner of the firm, and neither the firm nor its clients are involved in the government investigation.

The letter also listed lawyer Sheri Dillon of Morgan Lewis, and Cohen’s lawyers at McDermott Will and Emery as lawyers who have provided advice and work product to Cohen that might be contained in seized documents. Dillon was previously identified as tax counsel for Donald Trump and the Trump Organization.

Related article: “How will prosecutors handle privileged documents from Michael Cohen raids?”

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