Lawyer Michael Cohen can sue Trump’s company to cover legal costs

NEW YORK, Nov 15 (Reuters) – Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixator, can sue the Trump Organization to cover millions of dollars in legal fees to defend against investigations into his work for the former US president, a new York State Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday.

Cohen, now a vocal critic of Trump, said the real estate company stopped paying its bills after it began cooperating with several investigations. These included investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and Trump’s efforts to silence women who claimed to have had affairs with him.

In a 5-0 decision, the Manhattan Appeals Division said a trial judge erred in dismissing Cohen’s lawsuit. The court said it was unclear whether Cohen’s legal fees had increased because he had been an employee of the Trump Organization, which would entitle him to reimbursement.

Judge Joel Cohen, the trial judge, had ruled last November that Cohen’s fees “arose from his (sometimes unlawful) services to Mr. Trump personally, to Mr. Trump’s campaign and to the Trump Foundation, but not of his services to the affairs of the Trump Organization, which is the sole defendant.”

Michael Cohen originally sued in March 2019 to recover $1.9 million in costs, plus $1.9 million he was ordered to forfeit in a criminal case. The fees kept mounting and the Trump Organization paid some of them, according to court documents.

Attorneys for the company and Cohen did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Michael Cohen and Judge Cohen are not related.

Cohen served a three-year sentence, partially under house arrest due to the COVID-19 pandemic, after pleading guilty in 2018 to campaign finance and tax evasion violations.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Lewis Liman in Manhattan dismissed Cohen’s lawsuit accusing Trump and the government of sending him to jail for 16 days in July 2020, in retaliation for releasing his tell-all book. The book, “Disloyal: A Memoir,” became a New York Times bestseller.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Will Dunham

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