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Special Master Rains on Michael Cohen’s Parade with Latest Decision in Attorney-Client Privilege Fight


Cohen face

Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney for President Donald Trump, has lost another legal battle.

The special master appointed by Judge Kimba Wood in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) has mostly shut down Cohen’s efforts to keep certain evidence out of the Government’s hands on grounds that this information was privileged (as in, attorney-client privilege), partially privileged or “highly personal.”

You may recall that retired judge Barbara S. Jones was brought on to resolve the ongoing dispute over materials seized by the FBI in the April raids on Cohen’s office, home and hotel room.

Jones recommended on Thursday evening, despite claims by Cohen’s attorneys, that a substantial number of materials that were designated privileged or partially privileged are actually fair game.

“Out of 4,085 items designated privileged by the Plaintiff and/or Intervenors, the Special Master agrees with the Plaintiff and/or Intervenors and finds that 2,633 are Privileged and/or Partially Privileged. The Special Master also finds that 1,452 items are not privileged,” the latest filing reads. “The Plaintiff objects to the designation of ‘not privileged’ as to 22 of these items, but has advised the Special Master that he will not raise these objections with the Court.”

Note that Cohen still believes 22 of these items should not be regarded as “not privileged,” but that neither he nor his attorneys will argue about that point. Cohen’s legal strategy has noticeably shifted in recent days with the hires of former Clinton attorney Lanny Davis and former Manhattan prosecutor Guy Petrillo. Cohen hinted that he will be more willing to cooperate with the federal government’s investigation when he vowed to “put his family and country first.”

Jones has determined that “all 1,452 items that have been designated ‘not privileged’ will be promptly released to the Government.”

As Courthouse News’ Adam Klasfeld noted, that amounts to a rejection of “more than a third of [Cohen’s] legal team’s assertions of attorney-client privilege.”

As of June 8, Jones had determined that 14 paper documents out of 639 were privileged or partly privileged and that 148 of 291,770 electronic files were privileged. That was a total of 162 items out of 292,409 or .00055 percent.

CNN highly personal that only three of those items  were considered “highly personal.” These were items seized in the FBI raids of Cohen’s home and offices. Electronic files came from two of Cohen’s phones and one iPad.

[Image via Yana Paskova and Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.