Michael Cohen, the onetime personal lawyer and fixer for Donald Trump, can sue the Trump Organization to cover millions of dollars in legal fees from defending against investigations into his work for the former U.S. president, a New York state appeals court ruled on Tuesday.
Cohen, now a vocal Trump critic, said the real estate company stopped paying his bills after he began cooperating with several investigations. Among these were probes into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Trump’s efforts to silence women who claimed they had affairs with him.
In a 5-0 decision, the Appellate Division in Manhattan said a trial judge erred in dismissing Cohen’s lawsuit. The court said it was unclear whether Cohen’s legal fees mounted because he had been a Trump Organization employee, which would entitle him to reimbursement.
Justice Joel Cohen, the trial judge, had ruled last November that Cohen’s fees “arise out of his (sometimes unlawful) service to Mr. Trump personally, to Mr. Trump’s campaign and to the Trump Foundation, but not out of his service to the business of the Trump Organization, which is the only defendant.”
Michael Cohen originally sued in March 2019 to recoup $1.9 million in fees, plus $1.9 million he was ordered to forfeit in a criminal case. The fees kept growing, and the Trump Organization has paid some of them, court papers show.
Lawyers for the company and Cohen did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Michael Cohen and Justice Cohen are not related.
Cohen served a three-year sentence, partially in home confinement because of the COVID-19 pandemic, after pleading guilty in 2018 to campaign finance violations and tax evasion.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Lewis Liman in Manhattan dismissed Cohen’s lawsuit accusing Trump and the government of returning him to prison from home confinement for 16 days in July 2020, in retaliation for publicizing his tell-all book. The book, “Disloyal: A Memoir,” became a New York Times bestseller.