Cannon Orders Appointment of Special Master for Seized Mar-a-Lago Materials

Hyemin Han
Monday, September 5, 2022, 11:50 AM

Former president Donald Trump mostly prevailed in his Aug. 22 request that a special master be appointed "to protect the integrity of privileged documents" pursuant to Rule 53(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, in spite of the Justice Department's argument that such a master is not warranted in this case.

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In a foreshadowed legal win for former president Donald Trump, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has ruled that a special master be appointed to oversee documents seized from Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence on Aug. 8. In addition to granting the appointment of a special master, Cannon enjoined the government from reviewing and using the seized materials for "investigative purposes" until the special master’s review is complete or a separate court order is given, though she did not pause the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's review at this time. A joint filing from both parties with proposed special master candidates is due on or before Sept. 9. 

The Department of Justice had argued in a 40-page opposition to Trump's Aug. 22 Motion for Judicial Oversight and Additional Relief that 1) Trump lacks standing to request judicial oversight and related relief in relation to presidential records seized from Mar-a-Lago pursuant to the Presidential Records Act; 2) Trump is not entitled to the return of any property and fails in his request for injunctive relief; 3) even if Trump had standing, the appointment of a special master would be "unnecessary" and "interfere with legitimate government interests." Oral arguments were heard in West Palm Beach, Florida last week.

Last Friday, Cannon also released the "more detailed Receipt of Property" that lists items collected during the search and a status of the filter review of those materials, which the Justice Department filed under seal on Aug. 30.

You can read Cannon's full order here or 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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