George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley is a well-respected legal scholar, known for his analysis of legal issues on television and in print. He was also the professor of GW alumnus Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels in her cases against Michael Cohen and Donald Trump. Turley came to Avenatti’s defense in a Monday blog post titled, “The Case for Michael Avenatti.”
The latest controversy involving Avenatti stemmed from an interview Daniels gave with The Daily Beast, where she accused her attorney of failing to let her know where the money he raised for her legal expenses was actually going, as well as filing a defamation lawsuit against Trump on her behalf without her consent. Immediately, questions of legal ethics and possible disbarment popped up, but Turley said such talk is premature at best.
The professor was up front about being partial to Avenatti in this situation.
“I will not deny a bias for my former students and I have always been proud of his success as a litigator, including major wins in difficult cases over the years,” said. Still, he said that he hasn’t always agreed with the arguments in his lawsuits, citing the Trump defamation case.
“However, the coverage of the Daniels’ allegations has largely ignored some obvious problems with her account against Avenatti,” Turley said.
There are three main points Turley focuses on that he claims undermine Daniels’ claim that Avenatti acted without her consent. The first is that California law provides for “advance authorization” that lets attorneys act on their client’s behalf over the course of representing them. A client can always step in and limit the scope of the representation.
Second is the timing of the Trump defamation case. Avenatti filed that claim on April 30, 2018. Turley points to multiple statements Daniels made after that point where she gushed over Avenatti’s representation. This includes a July 10 statement where she said, “Look, if I didn’t think Michael was going a good job, I would fire his ass,” and when she said on October 8, “We are in contact every single day, almost, you know, three or four times a day sometimes, and I will message him about other things that are going on, other problems, this or that. This person did this or that, and he always puts me first.”
The third point is that Daniels apparently accused the men she called her “two gay dads,” J.D. Barrale and Keith Munyan, of withholding money they made from selling items bearing her likeness.
“What she has done to Michael Avenatti publicly she has done to us privately for the past month,” Barrale told The Daily Beast.
All that being said, Turley said that it would be best for Avenatti to dump Daniels—not the other way around.
“The original non-disclosure agreement controversy with Trump may be coming to a long-overdue end – with the bar license of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen,” Turley wrote, claiming that Cohen is in bigger trouble than Avenatti. “Even absent such a change, Avenatti should sever Daniels as a client given the public accusations. The first requirement for representation is clarity and consent on the objectives of the case. To control a case a lawyer must be able to control his client.”
Law&Crime reached out to Avenatti for comment, but he did not respond.
[Image via Fox News screengrab]