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Rudy Giuliani Agrees to Have the Same Special Master That Michael Cohen Did for Attorney-Client Privilege Review


Bringing back a familiar figure from the Michael Cohen saga, a federal judge on Friday agreed to appoint the same special master from that case to review Rudy Giuliani and Victoria Toensing’s seized files.

Ex-Southern District of New York Judge Barbara Jones was trusted and praised by all parties in the Cohen case in 2018.

Now, Giuliani and Toensing agree with the government that she should be in charge this time, too.

“Judge Jones ‘efficiently and meticulously reviewed’ tens of thousands of items over a period of four months and made privilege designations that were not objected to by the parties,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebekah Donaleski noted in a two-page letter on Thursday evening.

Even disgraced celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti had nothing but approval for Judge Jones when she was reviewing the Cohen files related to his then-client Stormy Daniels.

“We think she is nothing short of an exceptional choice,” Avenatti told reporters outside of court in April 2018, marking perhaps the first and last time Avenatti, Cohen, Giuliani and federal prosecutors stood in full agreement in court.

U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken confirmed her selection in a brief ruling on Friday afternoon, “finding her appointment to be in the interests of justice.”

Judge Jones comes with high praise from his fellow U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood.

“Judge Wood noted at the conclusion of the Cohen proceeding that Judge Jones ‘performed her review with extraordinary efficiency and speed, while giving the parties a full opportunity to be heard,’ and she and her law firm showed ‘professionalism and careful attention to detail,'” AUSA Donaleski’s letter continued.

Judge Oetken conditioned her appointment on her confirmation that she is “not subject to disqualification” under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which appears to be a reference to her peripheral tie to the former mayor of New York City: Jones has been a longtime partner at the firm Bracewell LLC, where Giuliani served as a shareholder before January 2016.

There was no overlap because Jones started working there in July 2016, roughly half a year later.

“None of the parties believe that Mr. Giuliani’s prior affiliation with Bracewell & Giuliani presents a conflict that would disqualify Judge Jones from being appointed as the special master or her firm assisting in her review,” the government wrote in a footnote, disavowing any conflict. “In addition, after consulting with counsel at Bracewell, the Government understands that a partner who assisted Judge Jones in the privilege review in Cohen, who has a personal relationship with Mr. Giuliani, will recuse himself from this matter in order to avoid the appearance of any conflict.”

If Giuliani hopes to benefit from that tangential tie, Cohen believes he will be in for a rude surprise.

“Judge Jones was professional in the review and determination of attorney/client privilege of the more than 10 million documents in my case,” Cohen told Law&Crime in a text message. “The choice of Judge Jones and the expeditious manner to which she conducts her court will not inure to the benefit of Rudy.”

According to the government, Judge Jones has agreed to the arrangement, and the parties propose to move the matter forward in the same way the Cohen matter was handled.

“The government respectfully suggests that the court issue an order of appointment similar to the one issued by Judge Wood in the Cohen matter, setting forth the duties of the special master, the reporting and judicial review requirements, terms of compensation, terms of engagement of other professionals, and other relevant provisions.”

During the Cohen case, Jones charged a rate of roughly $700 an hour, a bill that was split in half by the government and half by the ex-fixer and the Trump Organization. Legal experts have called that billing rate reasonable, by New York standards.

Update—June 4 at 3:27 p.m. Central Time: This story has been updated to include Judge Oetken’s approval of the special master.

Read the government’s memo below:

(Screenshot from YouTube)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."