Innocent, or Eventually Pardoned? Alan Levy on the Saga of Michael Cohen

Michael Dean Cohen.  Born August 25, 1966 in Long Island, New York.


American University in Washington, D.C.  School Motto, “For God and Country”.  Ranked 69th in the nation in 2018 by U.S. News and World Report (in a dead heat for that position with Rutgers, Virginia Tech, and Texas A&M), American University is comprised of several colleges, including the School of International Service, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, School of Communication, School of Professional & Extended Studies, School of Public Affairs, School of Education, and the Washington College of Law.

Washington College of Law School Motto, “Champion What Matters”.

The Washington College of Law is ranked 6th in the nation in International Law and 7th in Trial Advocacy, with an overall ranking of 80th by U.S. News and World Report, and with those achievements, American University’s law school seems an adequate and competent institution.  Ranked 80th out of 237 Law Schools in the United States.  And American University’s ranking of 69th out of 2,618 four-year colleges in this nation is impressive.

This is where it gets interesting.

With A Bachelor of Arts in something or other from American University in hand, where did Michael D. Cohen elect to enroll in law school?  The logical choice would surely have been right there, at American University’s quite adequate school of law.  But that’s not what occurred.

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Instead, Mr. Cohen, eventually to be referred to as Mr. Cohen, Esq., enrolled in the Western Michigan Thomas M. Cooley Law School, with locations in Lansing, Michigan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Auburn Hills, Michigan, and Tampa, Florida.  Their Bar passing rate per Wikipedia is a quite mediocre 61%, and in 2017, Cooley Law School was sanctioned by the American Bar Association for a violation of the ABA requirements that schools only admit students who appear capable of earning a Juris Doctor degree and passing a Bar exam.  During the 2016-2017 application period, the school admitted 86% of applicants, the highest of any ABA-approved law school.  The entering fall 2017 class had a median GPA of just 2.94 and median LSAT of 142 (18th percentile of test takers).  The 25th percentile GPA of enrolled students was 2.59 and the 25th percentile LSAT of enrolled students was 139 (11th percentile of test takers), both lowest of any ABA-approved law school in the United States, outside of Puerto Rico.  That same year, the school was ranked the “worst” law school in the country by law website “Above the Law.”  As a comparative yardstick, the median GPA of those entering Harvard Law in 2017 had a GPA in excess of 3.75 and an LSAT score above 170, with only about 15% of those who applied being admitted.

One course within the stated Cooley Law curriculum caught my attention.

Course Description: Corporate Law and Finance LL.M. Program

“The WMU Cooley Law Graduate Program in Corporate Law and Finance provides students with an opportunity to solve challenging, real world business problems with guidance from our faculty of actively practicing litigation and transactional business law professionals. We provide classroom access to legal experts who not only understand the challenges confronting their business clients in today’s economy, but also offer constructive and practical advice regarding the efficient delivery of legal services to both in house and private practice clients. Our curriculum emphasizes the financial aspects of corporate practice, filling a gap that is often identified by employers as missing in today’s pool of future leaders.  In the private sector, clients are seeking predictability of outcomes and cost, greater efficiency and, of course, cost effective delivery of legal services.  As business clients become more sophisticated and technology improvements positively impact the cost of transactions, litigation and compliance work, attorneys need to redefine the value of their services.  Prepare yourself for these significant changes that are occurring in the delivery of legal services.”

Enter attorney Michael D. Cohen, graduate of an institution that would eventually be ranked as the worst law school in the United States.

It seems appropriate at this time to stand firmly in defense of Mr. Cohen.  Perhaps he was unable to attend a more prestigious law school, including American University’s very own or a more lofty choice such as Princeton or Harvard.  There are matters of financial wherewithal, LSAT scores, and dozens of complex reasons why young collegians make difficult or compromising choices, and I cannot believe the young Mr. Cohen would have knowingly enrolled in a law school that would, years after his graduation, earn the distasteful reputation as the worst in our nation.  And then there’s the matter of the course on Corporate Law and Finance I cited earlier.  In my own university experience and because I changed majors abruptly as a junior, I was forced to take some core courses normally populated by freshmen.  One of those classes was biology.  I easily sailed through quizzes and exams, including the midterm, and had a solid “A” going into the final, the subject matter of which was to be classification of all things that scurry around our planet.  Starting with A for arachnids, I hopelessly tried to memorize meaningless Latin terms, at least I recall them being Latin, and as I sat in my dorm room contemplating the absurdity of calling a spider an arachnid, I made a highly mathematical decision.  I decided to cut the final exam, and I played golf that day instead.  I accepted a “B” in the class and don’t feel the least less informed since I failed to memorize terms meaningless in my rather mundane world.  I am happy referring to spiders as spiders and am just as wary of them as I might be of arachnids.  And yes, I opted not to apply to medical school.  My knee is a knee, and my whatever is simply a whatever.

So how does my meandering about biology at the University of Illinois have anything remotely to do with Michael Cohen, you may ask.

It’s simple.  I believe he also decided to play golf during one of his classes at Cooley Law, the one about Corporate Law and Finance, or perhaps the instructor was so ambiguous that Mr. Cohen failed to grasp an elemental theory fundamental to the practice of law, assuming he actually attended that particular class.  Could he actually have graduated from a law school and not understood the tenet that lawyers do not pay fees on behalf of their clients?

Could he have been confused by the concept that attorneys provide services and the clients pay for the attorneys accordingly, and not the other way around?  I must remind you that Mr. Cohen did, in fact, attend an institution that would later be ranked the worst in the nation, so although it is a stretch, it is possible Mr. Cohen was taught contrary ideology and practices at an inferior institution.  It is unfortunate that ignorance is not a viable excuse in a Court of Law.

One cannot say, “Oh, it’s not okay for me to drive my van along a crowded pedestrian path and mow down innocent people?” as a posture of defense.  Mr. Cohen does not strike me as an idiot.  He has been clever enough to tape conversations with the president, and he has a path toward redemption.  And this is that path, in my opinion.  President Trump is guilty of having an affair with Stormy Daniels.  He is guilty of arranging to have his attorney make a payment to Ms. Daniels in an effort to silence her.  Our president also clearly agreed to an arrangement, whereby he would reimburse Michael Cohen for his efforts, and anyone who thinks otherwise played golf during many more classes in college or high school than simply biology.  And I believe Michael Cohen attended and probably got an “A” in the course concerning who is supposed to pay whom.  Period.

The argument in defense of Mr. Cohen and the president can be summarized by two words … “So what?”  As long as personal funds and not campaign funds were used to pay Ms. Daniels and repay Mr. Cohen, no crime has been committed.

Ugly mess, yup.  Poor choice by the president to become involved with Ms. Daniels, yup.  Misleading statements and imbecilic denials of wrongdoing, yup.  All Mr. Cohen has to say is that he was trying to protect the president, and he’s a hero in my book.

All the president has to do is say, “This is embarrassing, but I did repay Mr. Cohen from my personal household account, and here’s a copy of the check to show that’s true.  But I did what any man would do in this situation, and that’s try to initially hide the truth.  Sorry, folks, so now let’s get back to the job of running this country, and from now on, I’ll try to think with my big head rather than my little one.”

If campaign funds were used, that’s another ballgame, but hopefully Mr. Cohen attended and passed a class about decisions and ramifications at Cooley Law.

At a commencement speech given at Thomas M. Cooley Law School by Chief Justice Thomas E. Brennan on January 20, 2013, he said these words,

“I came up with the Latin motto for the school. ‘In corde hominum est anima legis.’

I told the students that it meant ‘the spirit of the law is in the hearts of men.’

A couple days later a committee of women students came to my office.

They called themselves CATS. An acronym for Cooley Action Team Sisters.

They let me know that the spirit of the law is also in the hearts of women.

I assured them that the Latin word ‘hominum’ means mankind in the generic sense, and not just the male of the species.

That got me off the hook.

To tell the truth, there is no such Latin word as ‘hominum.’

But I figured since I made up the word, I was also entitled to make up the definition.

So we settled on the translation “The spirit of the law is in the human heart.”

And so it is.

That motto is more than just a catchy slogan. It is a statement of philosophy.  It is an affirmation of the existence of natural law. It testifies that there is such a thing as objective truth.  It reminds us that deep within the very heart and soul of every human being there abides the faculty of conscience which strives to understand the meaning of our lives, to distinguish between good and evil and to chart a course for the pursuit of true happiness.

The spirit of the law is within us.

The Ten Commandments that Moses carried down from Mount Sinai are etched in our hearts as surely as they were written on tablets of stone.

And the Codes of Hamurabi are emblazoned on our instincts as surely as they were on the pillars of Babylon four thousand years ago.

Every religion known to man proceeds from a belief in an intelligent Creator. Even the folks who believe we originated from a big bang would have to concede that before the bang there was the idea of the bang.

If the bang was inevitable, then the bang was not the beginning, being preceded by the conditions that led to the bang.

And if it was not inevitable, then it was the result of choice or decision.

Human beings are said to be made in the image and likeness of their Creator because we have the two faculties that are always ascribed to the Creator of the universe: intellect and free will.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The pursuit of happiness.

The never ending chase.

The striving. The searching. The climbing up. The reaching out.

The quest for the Holy Grail. The journey to the Promised Land.

California, you may know, is the only state that claims to be heaven on earth.

That’s true. The constitution of California says that all people have the right to pursue and to obtain happiness.

That might explain why so many people move to California.

And why the Golden State has a budget deficit of 16 billion dollars.

Too many people think that freedom means being able to do whatever you want to do.

But the pendulum of human history that swings back and forth between anarchy and dictatorship, as it does today in the Middle East, teaches the hard truth that there can be no true liberty without the rule of law.”

I believe with every ounce of my soul that Michael Cohen has never listened to or read the words uttered by Chief Justice Thomas Brennan at that commencement exercise, but they are words we should all take as our own.

Attorney to the President of the United States, who will perhaps eventually testify that he is often confused as to who is to pay whom for legal services rendered.  A mysterious payment by that same attorney to a “Lady of the Night”, (I hope that was politically correct), with no monthly repayment plan, and I pray campaign funds were not involved.  Eventually, in the inescapable white light of revelation and truth, guilty labels will be placed on those involved in this grand fiasco … followed immediately by presidential pardons from the throne room on Pennsylvania Avenue.

As I stated earlier, “So what?”

And here’s the rub.  This sort of stuff is not at all what Jefferson and the others gathered in Philadelphia in 1776 envisioned.  These ludicrous and sordid affairs flowing from the White House are the type of meanderings outside The Law that Chief Justice Brennan so eloquently suggested we not tolerate, when he discussed the concepts of good and evil in the speech he gave law school graduates in 2013.  Cooley Law may be rated poorly by the ABA, but the message given to its graduates that day was without a doubt Jeffersonian in nature.  Our current administration has drifted, or perhaps has been driven, in a direction opposite from what must be our path.

In a philosophy class that gave me headaches so long ago, we studied Bishop Berkeley and had a lively debate about whether or not a tree crashing in the forest makes a sound, if no one is there to witness or hear the event.  We then discussed the fall of empires.  There is a huge tree I envision, a towering and mammoth oak that dwarfs anything else in a seemingly endless forest.  That tree to me symbolizes this great nation, a mighty oak whose roots have been systematically weakened from the disease of disunity spreading rampantly from within, and when that mighty tree ultimately crashes to the forest floor, there will be no room for debate.

The tragic sound of this great Republic collapsing will be heard to the far reaches of the four howling winds.


Design by Steven Drachman from an image by BeFunky/Jacob Morrissey. Alan Levy is the author of The Tenth Plague, which will be published by Chickadee Prince Books in 2019.