Judge questions whether legal cases cited by Michael Cohen’s lawyer actually exist

Dec 13, 2023, 10:07 AM

A lawyer for Michael Cohen, the fixer-turned-foe of former President Donald Trump, appears to have cited court rulings that do not exist in a legal filing seeking to have Cohen’s post-prison supervision end early, according to a federal judge in New York who is threatening penalties.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman issued an order Tuesday telling attorney David M. Schwartz to provide by Dec. 19 copies of three rulings Schwartz cited in the motion he filed last month. If the copies cannot be produced, the judge said Schwartz should explain in writing why he should not be sanctioned.

“As far as the Court can tell, none of these cases exist,” Furman wrote. He added that if copies of the rulings aren’t submitted, he wanted “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.”

Schwartz did not immediately respond to phone and email messages Wednesday.

A new lawyer for Cohen, E. Danya Perry, said she also was not able to verify the case law cited in Schwartz’s motion.

Cohen, who declined to comment, was sentenced to prison in late 2018 after pleading guilty to tax evasion, campaign finance charges and lying to Congress. He served about 13 1/2 months in prison and a year and half in home confinement before being placed on three years of supervised release.

Furman, in discussing possible sanctions in his order, referred to another, unrelated case earlier this year in Manhattan federal court involving the citing of cases that did not exist. Two lawyers in that case were fined $5,000 for citing bogus cases that were invented by ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence-powered chatbot.

There is no mention in documents in Cohen’s case whether an artificial intelligence program was used for Schwartz’s motion.

Cohen has served about two years of his supervised release from prison. The campaign finance conviction came after he helped arrange payouts during the 2016 presidential race to keep the porn actor Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal from making public claims of extramarital affairs with Trump.

Schwartz filed a motion on Nov. 29 asking that the supervised release be ended early, citing Cohen’s testimony against Trump in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ ongoing civil lawsuit alleging Trump and his company inflated his wealth in financial documents.

In a statement, Perry said she conducted her own research in support of Schwartz’s motion, but she was unable to verify the case law Schwartz cited.

“Consistent with my ethical obligation of candor to the Court, I advised Judge Furman of this issue,” Perry said, adding she believed the motion still had merit.

In his motion, Schwartz cited three cases he said were all affirmed by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

But Furman said one of those citations actually referred to a page in a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that has nothing to do with supervised release. A second case mentioned by Schwartz is a Board of Veterans Appeals decision, the judge said. And Schwartz’s third citation “appears to correspond to nothing at all,” Furman wrote.

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Judge questions whether legal cases cited by Michael Cohen’s lawyer actually exist