As a lay person I'm a little shocked at the proceedings with the Michael Cohen raid, as it clearly has some issues with attorney client privilege.

While it may have bearing on the court case, and I'm not positive it does, I'm curious why a client list or more specifically Sean Hannity's name would be made public when the details could be handled in private. This feels like a political hit job carried out by the courts rather than the wheels of justice doing their thing. Maybe we will find out more details that will make it more relevant. So far it seems like none little of the evidence has actually been reviewed.

Help me understand the public/private nature of courtroom findings, requests as it pertains to this case.

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    I thought attorney-client privilege applied to conversations between attorney and client and associated information, not to who the clients actually are.
    – JAB
    Apr 17, 2018 at 18:00
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    Also, from a non-favorable perspective to Cohen, it seems Hannity claiming Cohen was never his attorney means there's no attorney-client privilege anyway. cnn.com/2018/04/16/opinions/…
    – JAB
    Apr 17, 2018 at 18:07
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    Cohen's attorneys were trying to establish that he was doing actual legal work to justify their claim that the seized documents were protected by attorney-client privilege. Apr 17, 2018 at 18:52

2 Answers 2


This feels like a political hit job carried out by the courts rather than the wheels of justice doing their thing.

The wheels of justice are doing their thing; the answer and legal reasoning is in the court transcript, as quoted and commented on by a news source: see Michael Cohen raid and first day in court. Transcript: 04/16/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show | MSNBC.

The overall argument made by the press lawyer - which convinced the judge and the court - is that if the third client's name is given to the court as sealed information, it should be public, according to the 1st Amendment and in the public interest.

(Transcript edited and condensed by me)

Mr. Balin: Your Honor, I apologize for interrupting. I`m a lawyer representing the press. ABC, “The New York Times”, “Associated Press”, CNN, and “Newsday”.

The judge says, quote: I think you'd better come to the podium.

Mr. Balin says, quote: I think I'd better too, your honor. I've sat and listened until we got to the point where I realized there's a public access issue here. Your honor, I'm Robert Balin from Davis Wright Tremaine. Thank you very much.

...There is no credible claim that this client`s mere identity is attorney-client privileged information. Michael Cohen makes the argument that it would be embarrassing to be associated with what he terms a raid at a house, in a home. Your Honor, I hardly need to remind the court of the intense public interest in the issues that are currently before this court. I look around and I see that every other seat is occupied by a member of the press.

...That's the very nature of the First Amendment access right, so that we the people and the press can monitor our institutions and have a rational basis for agreeing or disagreeing...

...It was Justice Burger who I think put it well. People in our open society do not demand infallibility from their institutions, but it is difficult for them to accept what they are prohibited from observing. That was in Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia many years ago.

...Your honor, I see no basis for denying public access. If your honor is going to order disclosure of this name, I see no basis for denying public access to that name.

Maddow's comments:

This is the lawyer for news organizations coming in and pressing this point. The judge at this point has basically agreed that she's going to take the name in a sealed envelope. The lawyer for the press comes in and says, if you're going to take that name, there's no good argument, there's no good legal precedent for keeping that name from the public. The secret name of Michael Cohen`s secret third client in his legal business, if that's going to be disclosed to the court, it should be disclosed to the people.

And here is an interview with Balin where he explains the how and why of his arguments: Q&A: Lawyer behind Hannity revelation at Cohen hearing speaks - Columbia Journalism Review.

Other points:

Help me understand the public/private nature of courtroom findings, requests as it pertains to this case.

Court proceedings are public; nearly everything that happens in a court is public information (aside from issues of national security as decided by panels of judges and/or grand juries; or issues of safety for individuals and/or witnesses who are party to the proceedings).

So far it seems like none little of the evidence has actually been reviewed.

The nature and content of the evidence or its review has nothing to do with the identity of the clients. The issue is the secrecy of the client list, not the content of the relationship between the client and Cohen.


The short answer is that we have a First Amendment right to know what's going on in the courts. That generally includes a right to know any information that a judge uses to make her decisions.

In this case, Cohen's records have been seized, and he's trying to assert that some of them are from legal clients and some are from business clients. The judge needs to issue an order telling investigators how to handle those records to respect attorney-client privilege ("segregate the Trump files, do whatever you want with the Bluth Banana Stand records").

So Cohen's request requires the court to know who his clients are; the First Amendment requires us to know.

Of course, that First Amendment right is not absolute, and Cohen could have gone through a process to try to have that information sealed. As far as I know, he didn't do that. I have no idea why.

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    psst It's the Sixth Amendment that grants the right to public trial, not the First.
    – hszmv
    Apr 18, 2018 at 14:45
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    Sort of -- both protect the right to a public trial, but in different ways. The Sixth Amendment grants the defendant the right to a public trial, but the defendant may waive that right. So if Cohen wanted a closed hearing to keep the public from learning who his clients were, that would not offend the Sixth Amendment under Gannet v. DePasquale. But the public has an independent right to access the hearing and see what's going on under the First Amendment, so the closure has to satisfy Press-Enterprise.
    – bdb484
    Apr 18, 2018 at 16:19

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