Executive Branch

Cannon Names Special Master, Rejects Justice Department Motion for Partial Stay

Hyemin Han
Thursday, September 15, 2022, 7:34 PM

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon released the decisions in two orders on Thursday evening.

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U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has named U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of New York Raymond J. Dearie as the special master to review privilege claims in documents seized at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence. Dearie has been in federal judicial service since 1986, when he was appointed by Ronald Reagan and served as chief judge from 2007-2011. Cannon forged ahead with the appointment three days after the Justice Department signaled it would be willing to accept Dearie, one of Trump’s proposed candidates, as the special master. (The Justice Department and Trump’s counsel had initially submitted a joint filing with differing special master candidates.)

In a separate order, Cannon also rejected the Justice Department’s motion for a partial stay of Cannon’s Sept. 5 order, which enjoined the government from using documents seized on Aug. 8 in its criminal investigation of Trump. The government had asked that it be allowed to continue reviewing and using the 100 discrete documents labeled as classified that were seized from Mar-a-Lago. (Trump opposed that motion and the government responded to that opposition on Sept. 13.) Cannon wrote in her order that the partial stay would require the court to accept two “compound premises” that it was not prepared to accept “hastily” prior to review by a special master. The first compound premise, according to Cannon, is that the 100 documents labeled as classified “are classified government records, and that Plaintiff therefore could not possibly have a possessory interest in any of them.” The second compound premise, Cannon asserts, is that Trump has no plausible claim of privilege as to any of the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago. Cannon wrote that until a “neutral third party” reviews the documents, these questions cannot be settled. 

The Justice Department indicated in its Sept. 8 motion that if Cannon did not grant a partial stay by Sept. 15, it would seek relief from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. In addition to motioning for a partial stay, it separately gave notice of its appeal for Cannon’s entire Sept. 5 decision. Both have yet to be filed as of press time.

You can read Cannon’s Sept. 15 orders below:





Hyemin Han is an associate editor of Lawfare and is based in Washington, D.C. Previously, she worked in eviction defense and has interned on Capitol Hill and with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. She holds a BA in government from Dartmouth College, where she was editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth independent daily.

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