May 14, 2024
Melinda Head

All Eyes Are On Michael Cohen

Formerly Michael Cohen, Esq.

It’s the stuff movies are made of. All eyes are on 57 year-old Michael Cohen this week as he testifies against his ex-Boss, former President Donald Trump in a lower Manhattan courthouse this week.

Michael Cohen leaves his apartment building on his way to Manhattan criminal court today. (Julia Nikhinson / AP)

But who is this man from Lawrence (Long Island), New York? Fun fact:  Fashion designers Donna Karan and Steve Madden are from the neighborhood, as well as Henry Hill (made famous by “Goodfellas”) and, most recently, rapper Lil Tecca (Tyler Justin Anthony Sharpe) whose “Random”  lyrics (“I started from the bottom … I want all the diamonds”) somehow ring true.

Mr. Cohen has been called a lot of things: a rat, a bulldozer, a smartass, a jerk, a sleazebag, an asshole, a Class A idiot and a weasel, among others. He’s been captured using profanities and making threats that could have earned him an Emmy if he had played in David Chase’s “The Sopranos”. He is a self-professed designated thug and attack dog with a law license.

“So I’m warning you, tread very f*** lightly because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f*** disgusting. Do you understand me? Don’t think you can hide behind your pen because it’s not going to happen. I’m more than happy to discuss it with your attorney and with your legal counsel because mother***** you’re going to need it.” (Michael Cohen)

“If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trumps’ benefit. If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.” (Michael Cohen)

Makes me think of the clip in the film “Lansky” (2021), starring Harvey Keitel: “It’s the way we live, it’s business”. Two movies I love about unsavory Jewish characters are Robert De Niro as Sam Rothstein in “Casino” and Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld in “American Hustle”.

At a 2017 news conference, President Donald Trump said: “Michael Cohen is a very talented lawyer. He’s a good lawyer at my firm”. Later, when things got hot, he was also quoted as saying: “I always liked Michael and he is a good person.”

Michael Cohen was an attorney until the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, disbarred him from practicing law in the State in February 2019, after he pleaded guilty to lying to the Senate Intelligence Committee and committing electoral campaign finance violations. Cohen claims that all of his actions were on behalf of Donald Trump; in other words, he took a bullet for The Boss … which violated his professional oath as an attorney.

Why, exactly, was Mr. Cohen disbarred? It is simple: he broke the law. And although it was not part of his downfall, it is clear that Mr. Cohen did not always adhere to the courtesy, respect and civility norms of the Profession.

“[T]he Appellate Division . . . is authorized to censure, suspend from practice or remove from office any attorney . . . who is guilty of professional misconduct, malpractice, fraud, deceit, crime or misdemeanor, or any conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.” (Supreme Court of the State of New York)

Michael Cohen is not the only lawyer to have been disbarred. In 2023 there were 1.3 million active lawyers in the United States. Every year the number of lawyers who are publicly disciplined remains steady, ranging from 0.22% to 0.38% (that’s less than 1%). The most common form of discipline is suspension, followed by disbarment. Disbarment is automatic in the event of any felony conviction.

A few other lawyers in the political landscape come to mind who have also had their troubles with the State Supreme Court:

  • After admitting that he lied to investigators about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and gave misleading testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, Former President Bill Clinton had his Arkansas license suspended for 5 years and faced disbarment, but resigned instead

  • Former President Richard Nixon was disbarred after being found guilty of obstructing justice by impeding the Watergate break-in investigation and abusing his power

In the end, it doesn’t matter why you commit a felony, unless you are deemed mentally incompetent. Being charged and found guilty automatically means that “you’re ‘outta here” if you’re an attorney. You take the risk, you live the consequences, as Mr. Cohen’s beleaguered post-Trump life clearly demonstrates. A new start in Lilyhammer might be just what the doctor ordered.

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About the Author

A serial entrepreneur, Melinda is a sociologist and statistician who believes there is no currency with greater value than knowledge

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