Michael Cohen asks Supreme Court to reopen lawsuit against Trump, Bill Barr for retaliatory jailing

NEW YORK — Michael Cohen asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to reopen his lawsuit against Donald Trump, former Attorney General Bill Barr, and others for jailing him in 2020 when he refused not to criticize the then-president under house arrest.

In his request for review, the former Trump fixer asked the justices to revive the case dismissed in January and decide “whether there is any consequence for executives who incarcerate their critics.”

Cohen, 57, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, was about halfway through a three-year sentence for issuing the notorious hush money payoff to Stormy Daniels and other crimes when the Bureau of Prisons released him to home confinement in May 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He wound up back in a prison camp in upstate Otisville the following July, when he wouldn’t immediately agree not to publicly mouth off about Trump during the pendency of his sentence.

Cohen spent 16 days in solitary confinement before Manhattan federal court Judge Alvin Hellerstein released him. In the July 2020 release order, the jurist remarked that the clause presented to Cohen — which would have prohibited him from publishing a Trump book before the 2020 election, talking to reporters, or using social media — had no purpose other than retaliation and was unlike anything he’d seen in his decades on the bench.

“[He] was presented with a document that had no federal serial number attached to it — that all documents like it have — that had a paragraph with misspellings, unusual syntax, and punctuation, that said he would not speak, write and would cause his family to not speak or write about anything related to the reasons he was in prison,” Cohen’s lawyer, Jon Dougherty, told The News.

Dougherty said Cohen asked the U.S. Marshals if he had to agree to it, and they said they didn’t know and would check with their superiors. They returned 90 minutes later with an order sending him back to prison even as he agreed to sign it. It’s not clear who marshals spoke with in the interim.

Cohen filed his suit against Trump, then-Attorney General Bill Barr, and others in December 2021, alleging they conspired to imprison him and violated his First Amendment rights. He sued them in their personal capacities, a type of lawsuit the Supreme Court has previously said can proceed in the most “unusual” circumstances.

Manhattan federal court Judge Lewis Liman dismissed the suit in November 2022, writing that Cohen’s release from jail was the appropriate remedy and that he was bound by precedent but believed the case demonstrated “profound violence” to Cohen’s constitutional rights by the executive branch. He described Cohen’s jailing as “nothing short of the use of executive power to lock up the president’s political enemies for speaking critically of him.” He said the available remedies wouldn’t deter it from happening again.

In January, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Liman’s decision, which Cohen’s Wednesday request asks the Supreme Court to reconsider. Cohen needs four justices to agree to review the case.

Lawyers for Trump and representatives for the Bureau of Prisons and Barr did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.