Avenatti, who is charged with various counts of fraud for allegedly scamming clients out of millions of dollars in settlement money, initially asked the court if he could serve as co-counsel in his defense. District Court Judge James Selna rejected that request, prompting Avenatti to submit a "pro se" request to serve in his own defense, Law.com's Meghann Cuniff reported.
The judge asked Avenatti a series of questions to determine whether he was fit to defend himself in the case. At one point, Avenatti was asked if he had expertise with the criminal justice system. Avenatti said he has never tried a criminal case.
"I have knowledge of it your honor, but I would not describe it as expertise," Avenatti said.
The judge eventually determined that Avenatti could represent himself. His original defense attorney in the case, Dean Stewart, was named standby counsel.
The trial is slated to begin with opening statements on Wednesday. Avenatti faces a slew of charges, including 10 counts of wire fraud that each carry a 20-year prison term.
The California case is the second of four federal criminal cases targeting Avenatti, who gained national recognition for his public clashes and legal battle with former President Donald Trump.
He has another upcoming fraud trial in California and a fourth trial in New York regarding allegations that he siphoned money from his ex-client, former adult film star Stormy Daniels.
Earlier this month, Avenatti was sentenced to more than two years in federal prison for attempting to extort sports apparel giant Nike for as much as $25 million.
Ticker Security Last Change Change % NKE NIKE, INC. 159.74 +1.87 +1.18%
He was convicted for attempted extortion and other charges in 2020 after he threatened Nike with bad publicity that could hurt the company’s stock price unless it paid him the money.