Is Michael Avenatti Improperly (ethically) Creating Pretrial Publicity in the Stormy Daniels Case?

“Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, threatened to sue the conservative Daily Caller website and two of its reporters over a story detailing Avenatti’s allegedly shady business dealings.

“The Daily Caller‘s story, published Sunday night, was authored by reporters Peter Hasson and Joe Simonson. The report outlines several of Avenatti’s past legal involvements, including allegedly failing to pay for $160,000 worth of coffee supplied by supply company Dillano’s. Avenatti once bought struggling coffee shop chain Tully’s out of bankruptcy, but he is no longer an owner and now serves as General Counsel for the Seattle business,” according to continues, “As the conservative media watchdog NewsBusters reported, Avenatti made 59 appearances on CNN between March 7 and April 30. The outlet also reported that Avenatti appeared on MSNBC eight times in just four days from April 30 to May 3.”


We Have no opinion on the allegations directed at Michael Avenatti regarding his past business dealings. We assume the state’s Attorney General if justified, will take appropriate action in the jurisdiction where the dealings occurred. 

We do have questions regarding Avenatti’s numerous appearances on various networks and social mediums. There are certain limitations on first amendment rights to free speech and expression. A lawyer should not create publicity that taints a prospective jury panel. However, said rules may not “constitute a forbidden intrusion on the field of free expression (see Gentile v. State Bar of Nevada ).  

For example, the Supreme Court in Gentile noted that it was necessary to examine the statements in issue and the circumstances under which they were made to see whether or not they do carry a threat of clear and present danger to the impartiality and good order of the courts or whether they are of a character which the principles of the First Amendment, as adopted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, protect.”

In Gentile, a lawyer held a press conference just hours after his client had been indicted on criminal charges, asserting that the State sought the indictment and conviction of an innocent person as a scapegoat and had not “been honest enough to indict the people who did it; the police department, crooked cops.”

The Supreme Court cleared the lawyer, in part, because the ethical rule was vague and unconstitutional. The court also determined that the statements were made sufficiently in advance of the trial, and were made to dilute the substantial news releases that had prejudiced his client.

Although we are not concluding that Avenatti has violated any rules of ethics (we are not aware of the substance of all of his numerous interviews), he gives the appearance of impropriety of doing so. His pretrial utterances, intertwined with an apparent political agenda, weighs against him.  He should try his case in the courtroom not the court of public opinion.









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