Michael Avenatti will represent himself in his California client theft trial, wrestling the spot from his taxpayer-funded lawyer minutes before a jury was empaneled Tuesday in an Orange County federal courtroom.

In an extraordinary move in a high-stakes white-collar criminal case, Avenatti stood as U.S. District Judge James V. Selna’s clerk was about to swear in 12 jurors and said he had a “Faretta issue,” referring to the 1975 U.S. Supreme Court case Faretta v. California, which established defendant’s right to self represent.

H. Dean Steward, a solo practitioner representing Michael Avenatti in his California federal criminal case, outside court in Santa Ana on Thursday, July 15, 2021. Photo: Meghann M. Cuniff/ALM