Avenatti, Dershowitz debate turns ugly, personal
Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti debated renowned constitutional scholar and former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” on Friday night. And things got pretty ugly. And personal.
It all started when Dershowitz, who has taught legal ethics for 35 years, said it would be unethical for Avenatti to talk directly to Michael Cohen without getting the express permission of Cohen’s lawyer. Avenatti said he received permission from Cohen himself, to which Dershowitz responded, “That’s not enough.”
“If you weren’t given permission to have that conversation with Michael Cohen you may have to… answer to an ethics committee,” Dershowitz told Avenatti.
As to that, Dershowitz is right. Such conduct would expressly violate rule 4.2 of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The rule could not be more clear: “In representing a client, a lawyer shall not communicate about the subject of the representation with a person the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter, unless the lawyer has the consent of the other lawyer or is authorized to do so by law or a court order.”
So, even if Avenatti did receive permission from Cohen himself, it would not be enough for him to contact Cohen directly without his counsel beside him.
We don’t know for sure if this took place, but Avenatti did not ever say he has permission from Cohen’s lawyer, despite being asked.
Instead, Avenatti fired back, disagreeing with the very premise that this would be a rule violation.
“Alan, you really need to start talking only about things that you know about as opposed to things you have no knowledge about,” Avenatti said. “You have no knowledge of the communications that went on between me and Michael Cohen’s representatives… long before that restaurant meeting.”
And Avenatti turned things personal shortly after that.
“You just make it up as you go along,” he added. “You need to go back and concentrate on what invites you get at Martha’s Vineyard, since that appears to be what you are really good at… Alan, I feel sorry for the students you taught legal ethics to, by the way, because you didn’t teach the truth,” Avenatti said.
To this jab, Dershowitz quickly responded, “Well they’ve become Justices of the Supreme Court, judges, some of the most important people in America.”
And to finish off the topic, Dershowitz said, “If you had been in my class you would not have had the conversation with Michael Cohen.”