Lawyer for Michael Cohen apparently cited nonexistent cases, judge says; new counsel pointed out problem

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Michael Cohen, who was once a lawyer for former President Donald Trump, exits the courtroom of Trump’s civil business fraud trial at the New York Supreme Court in New York in October. Photo by Yuki Iwamura/The Associated Press.

A lawyer representing former lawyer Michael Cohen in a bid to end supervised release, David M. Schwartz, is facing possible sanctions following an unusual footnote by a new counsel who joined the case.

The new counsel, E. Danya Perry, informed U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York in a footnote that she was unable to verify three cases cited by Schwartz, a lawyer with Gerstman Schwartz, in a legal brief.

In a Dec. 12 order to show cause, Furman said he checked also, and “as far as the court can tell, none of these cases exist.”

Law360, the New York Times, Politico and Axios are among the publications with coverage.

Furman ordered Schwartz to produce copies of the three decisions or explain why he should not be sanctioned for citing nonexistent cases.

“Any such submission,” Furman wrote, “shall take the form of a sworn declaration and shall provide, among other things, a thorough explanation of how the motion came to cite cases that do not exist and what role, if any, Mr. Cohen played in drafting or reviewing the motion before it was filed.”

Furman’s order cited a June decision in which a federal judge in New York City ordered two lawyers and their law firm to pay $5,000 for submitting a brief with fake cases made up by ChatGPT. It is unclear whether a chatbot was the culprit behind the suspect cites in Schwartz’s brief.

Cohen was once a lawyer for former President Donald Trump. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign finance violations and bank and tax fraud.

The campaign finance charges stem from payments that Cohen and Trump allegedly arranged to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who both claimed past affairs with Trump. The tax evasion charges stem from unreported income, including income from Cohen’s taxi medallion business.

Perry, a lawyer with Perry Law, represents Cohen in the civil fraud trial against Trump. She told Law360 that she joined the case after Schwartz filed the brief at issue because she thought that the government had mischaracterized Cohen’s testimony in Trump’s civil trial.

“In conducting my own research in support of Mr. Cohen’s motion, I was unable to verify the caselaw that had been submitted by previous counsel in his initial papers,” Perry said in a statement published by several publications. “Consistent with my ethical obligation of candor to the court, I advised Judge Furman of this issue.”

She nonetheless thinks that plenty of cases support Cohen’s bid for an end to supervised release.

Politico asked Cohen for comment, but he hung up the phone. Schwartz didn’t immediately respond to Politico’s request for comment.

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