Counsel for President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York submitted their respective lists of special master candidates Wednesday to U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood. Wood is weighing the appointment of one to handle some or all of the review of the material seized by the government after executing a search warrant against Cohen earlier this month.
Between the two of them, both parties have provided Wood with a total of seven names—three from prosecutors and four from Cohen’s team. However, the pool from which the two lists were pulled are tellingly different.
For Cohen, McDermott Will & Emery partners Todd Harrison and Stephen Ryan provided a list comprised of all former prosecutors from the Southern District of New York who are now long-standing practitioners in private practice.
Guidepost Solutions Chairman Bart Schwartz served under former U.S. attorney, New York City mayor and Trump campaign surrogate Rudy Giuliani, where he was the head of the office’s criminal division. A prominent corporate consultant and independent government monitor, Schwartz was appointed in 2016 as a special investigator by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to look into the state contracting process. The appointment came in the wake of a number of high-profile scandals that ensnared a number of people close to Cuomo, including former top aide Joseph Percoco.
Ropes & Gray partner Joan McPhee, herself a former prosecutor in Manhattan who was deputy chief of the appeals unit, was also offered by Cohen’s team. A white-collar defense attorney, she represented Kurt Mix, a drilling engineer charged with obstruction of justice in the government’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill case. Charges against Mix were dismissed by the Justice Department just a few weeks before his 2015 trial was to begin.
Park Jensen Bennett name attorney Tai Park, who held a number of prominent positions at SDNY before departing in 1999, is likewise a prominent white-collar defense attorney and suggestion from Cohen. He recently represented Macau billionaire Ng Lap Seng, who was tried and convicted of bribing U.N. officials in a building development scheme.
Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy partner George Canellos, the fourth and final name offered by Cohen’s side, joined the SDNY in 1994, where he was, among other things, chief of the major crimes unit. Before rejoining Milbank, Canellos was with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, serving for three years as head of the New York regional office. Currently, Canellos is the global head of the firm’s litigation and arbitration group.
In its letter to Wood, the government reiterated its belief that a special master was not needed to deal with material seized from Cohen. They continued to argue that a filter team, walled off from investigators, would “fairly and most efficiently accomplish this task” of reviewing for privileged information gathered in the raid.
Should Wood decide a special master was needed—she hinted that the handling of material related to Trump might be a discrete area requiring such a move—then prosecutors said three former magistrate judges from the Southern District satisfied their preconditions of neutrality, experience dealing with privilege disputes, and familiarity with the law that arises around the issue in criminal investigations, as well as their ability to move quickly.
Former Magistrate Judge Frank Maas served on the bench for 17 years before joining JAMS in 2016. He served two years during that tenure as chief magistrate. He, too, was a federal prosecutor in Manhattan before being appointed to the bench. He also served as first deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation. According to his JAMS profile, Maas is known for his expertise in electronic discovery issues.
Maas’ colleague at JAMS, former Magistrate Judge Theodore Katz, served for more than two decades on the bench in Manhattan federal court before retiring in 2012. During that time he oversaw more than 5,000 cases, according to his JAMS profile. He has previously served as an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School.
Lastly, the government offered former Magistrate Judge James Francis IV, who served in Manhattan from 1985 to 2017. He served as chief judge for two years during that time period as well. He served with the Legal Aid Society before joining the bench. He is currently a distinguished lecturer at the City University of New York Law School.
In its brief, the government said that it was prepared “to provide our view” on Cohen’s special master list recommendations “should the Court deem that appropriate.”
Beyond their list of recommendations, the government also laid out a provisional schedule for proceeding with the production of material to Cohen and, through Cohen, Trump’s attorneys at Spears & Imes.
The seized material would be produced on a rolling basis, beginning April 27 and concluding around May 11, depending on whether the team culling the seized material ran into issues, specifically with phones the government seized from Cohen.
It’s unclear if Trump’s team, led by Spears & Imes partner Joanna Hendon, is planning on submitting its own separate list of special master suggestions to Wood. Calls and emails to members of Trump’s team were not returned.