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Michael Cohen's attorneys float names for special master to review seized materials

Cohen's legal team floated four names to decide which files would violate attorney-client privilege and which ones potential trial prosecutors can see.

Attorneys for Michael Cohen asked a federal judge to appoint a so-called special master to decide which of Cohen’s materials seized by federal investigators can be viewed by prosecutors, and late Tuesday gave their choices for the job.

In a filing Wednesday, federal prosecutors reiterated that they would prefer not to have a special master, but offered three names of their own to fill the position if necessary.

Both sides requested a May 25 court date for a status conference that may determine whether a special master or a separate "filter team" or "privilege team" of prosecutors will review the seized materials to decide what is responsive to the search warrant and what is protected by attorney-client privilege.

Prosecutors also said in their filing that they can provide Cohen's legal team with copies of the material seized by May 11.

At a hearing Monday in U.S. District Court in New York, Judge Kimba Wood denied Cohen’s request for a temporary restraining order to block the investigators from reviewing the materials seized from Cohen’s temporary residence and two office spaces during a raid last week.

Wood said she was open to having the materials reviewed by either a “filter team” or a special master.

The judge ordered Cohen’s attorneys and the government’s lawyers to recommend names to fill the role.

In their Tuesday filing, Cohen’s attorneys provided Wood with four recommendations:

  • Bart Schwartz, former assistant U.S. attorney for Rudy Giuliani.
  • Joan McPhee, former federal prosecutor who successfully represented a Deepwater Horizon driller against federal charges.
  • Tai Park, former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York and a noted white-collar defense attorney.
  • George Canellos, former co-chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission's enforcement division and former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. Has represented several major financial institutions.

Prosecutors provided Wood with three candidates, all retired judges from the Southern District of New York, on Wednesday:

  • Frank Maas, currently associated with JAMS, a mediation company.
  • Theodore Katz, also associated with JAMS.
  • James C. Francis, IV, a lecturer at the City University of New York law school.

The specific focus of the investigation and possible federal crimes have not been disclosed by the U.S. attorney’s office, but in a filing on Friday they do confirm that Cohen is under federal criminal investigation.