By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) -A U.S. federal judge on Friday ordered an independent review of evidence from electronic devices seized in recent raids of Rudy Giuliani's home and office, rejecting Giuliani's effort to block it.
U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken in Manhattan said appointing a special master would "ensure the perception of fairness" in reviewing the 18 devices, including cellphones and computers, taken during the April 28 raids.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have been examining Giuliani's dealings in Ukraine, including whether he violated lobbying laws by acting as an unregistered foreign agent while working as a lawyer for then-U.S. President Donald Trump.
Robert Costello, a lawyer for Giuliani, said he considered it "inevitable" a special master would be appointed, "so this ruling comes as no surprise to us."
The office of U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan declined to comment.
Giuliani has not been charged, and after the raids he said that his conduct had been "absolutely legal and ethical."
A special master, typically a retired judge, would weed out communications covered by attorney-client privilege related to Giuliani's clients, including Trump, a fellow Republican.
Oetken rejected Giuliani's argument that the government should have sought his devices by subpoena, a less invasive process that would let Giuliani review the devices first.
"The search warrants at issue here were based on judicial findings of probable cause - supported by detailed affidavits - to believe that evidence of violations of specified federal offenses would be found at the locations to be searched," he wrote.
Oetken also rejected Giuliani's request to review documents detailing the basis for searching his devices and for a November 2019 search of his iCloud account, saying Giuliani was "not entitled to a preview of the government's evidence."
The special master would also review a device seized from Victoria Toensing, a lawyer who has worked with Giuliani.
Michael Bowe, a lawyer for Toensing, declined to comment.
Oetken ordered prosecutors and lawyers for Giuliani and Toensing to propose candidates for special master by June 4.
In seeking a special master, prosecutors cited their office's 2018 probe of another former Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen, where a special master reviewed materials seized from his home, office and a hotel room.
Cohen later pleaded guilty to campaign finance and other crimes.
The raids marked an aggressive new phase of a probe being conducted by the same U.S. Attorney's office that Giuliani led in the 1980s.
Giuliani later served as New York City's mayor, and won wide praise for his response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
He began representing Trump in April 2018 as Special Counsel Robert Mueller was probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Giuliani also sought before the 2020 U.S. presidential election to uncover damaging information about Democrat Joe Biden, who defeated Trump, and Biden's son Hunter.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld, Editing by Franklin Paul and Howard Goller)