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Judge in Trump Documents Case Rejected Suggestions to Step Aside

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  hallux  •  3 weeks ago  •  47 comments

By:   Charlie Savage and Alan Feuer - NYT

Judge in Trump Documents Case Rejected Suggestions to Step Aside
Two federal judges in South Florida privately urged Aileen M. Cannon to decline the case when it was assigned to her last year, according to two people briefed on the matter. She chose to keep it.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


Shortly after Judge Aileen M. Cannon   drew the assignment   in June 2023 to oversee former President Donald J. Trump’s classified documents case, two more experienced colleagues on the federal bench in Florida urged her to pass it up and hand it off to another jurist, according to two people briefed on the conversations.

The judges who approached Judge Cannon — including the chief judge in the Southern District of Florida, Cecilia M. Altonaga — each asked her to consider whether it would be better if she were to decline the high-profile case, allowing it to go to another judge, the two people said.

But Judge Cannon, who was appointed by Mr. Trump, wanted to keep the case and refused the judges’ entreaties. Her assignment raised eyebrows because she has   scant trial experience   and had previously   shown unusual favor to Mr. Trump   by intervening in a way that helped him in the criminal investigation that led to his indictment, only to be   reversed in a sharply critical rebuke by a conservative appeals court panel .

The extraordinary and previously undisclosed effort by Judge Cannon’s colleagues to persuade her to step aside adds another dimension to the increasing criticism of how she has gone on to handle the case.

She has broken, according to lawyers who operate there, with a general practice of federal judges in the Southern District of Florida of delegating some pretrial motions to a magistrate — in this instance, Judge Bruce E. Reinhart. While he is subordinate to her, Judge Reinhart is an older and much more experienced jurist. In 2022, he was the one who signed off on an F.B.I. warrant to search Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s club and residence in Florida, for highly sensitive government files that Mr. Trump kept after leaving office.

Since then, Judge Cannon has   exhibited hostility to prosecutors , handled   pretrial motions slowly   and indefinitely postponed the trial,   declining to set a date   for it to begin even though both   the prosecution   and   the defense   had told her they could be ready to start this summer.

But Mr. Trump’s lawyers have also urged her to delay any trial until after the election, and her handling of the case has virtually ensured that they will succeed in that strategy. Should Mr. Trump retake the White House, he could order the Justice Department to drop the case.

As Judge Cannon’s handling of the case has come under intensifying scrutiny, her critics have suggested that she could be in over her head, in the tank for Mr. Trump — or both.



Against that backdrop, word of the early efforts by her colleagues on the bench to persuade her to step aside — and the significance of her decision not to do so — has spread among other federal judges and the people who know them.




Neither Judge Cannon nor Judge Altonaga directly responded to requests for comment, including by emails sent via the clerk of the district court, Angela E. Noble. Ms. Noble later wrote in an email: “Our judges do not comment on pending cases.”




It is routine for novice judges to look to more experienced jurists for informal advice or mentoring as they learn to perform their new roles. And as the district’s chief, Judge Altonaga has a formal role in administering the federal judiciary in South Florida.

But ultimately, Judge Cannon is not subject to the authority of her district court elders. Like any Senate-confirmed, presidentially appointed judge, she has a life tenure and independent standing and is free to choose to ignore any such advice.

The two people who discussed the efforts to persuade her to hand off the case spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter. Each had been told about it by different federal judges in the Southern District of Florida, including Judge Altonaga.




Neither of the people identified the second federal judge in Florida who had reached out to Judge Cannon. One of the people confirmed the effort to persuade Judge Cannon to step aside but did not describe the details of the conversations the two judges had with her. The other person offered more details.




This person said each outreach took place by telephone. The first judge to call Judge Cannon, this person said, suggested to her that it would be better for the case to be handled by a jurist based closer to the district’s busiest courthouse in Miami, where the grand jury that indicted Mr. Trump had sat.

At the time, the Miami courthouse also had a secure facility approved to hold the sort of highly classified information that would be discussed in pretrial motions and used as evidence in the case. Judge Cannon is the sole judge in the federal courthouse in Fort Pierce, a two-hour drive north of Miami. The courthouse in Fort Pierce did not have a secure facility when she was assigned the case.

Because Judge Cannon kept the case, taxpayers have since had to pay to build a secure room — known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or S.C.I.F. — there.

After that initial argument failed to sway Judge Cannon to step aside, the person said, Judge Altonaga placed a call.




The chief judge — an appointee of former President George W. Bush — is said to have made a more pointed argument: It would be bad optics for Judge Cannon to oversee the trial because of what had happened during the criminal investigation that led to Mr. Trump’s indictment on charges of illegally retaining national security documents after leaving office and obstructing government efforts to retrieve them.


In August 2022, the F.B.I. obtained a search warrant from Judge Reinhart to go to Mar-a-Lago to hunt for any remaining classified documents that Mr. Trump had failed to turn over after receiving a subpoena for them.

The agents found thousands of government files that Mr. Trump had kept, even though under the Presidential Records Act they should have gone to the National Archives when he left office. The files the F.B.I. recovered included over 100 marked as classified, including some at the most highly restricted level.

Soon after the search, Mr. Trump filed a lawsuit against the government protesting the seizure of the materials, which he claimed were his personal property, and asking for a special master to be appointed to sift through them. Rather than letting Judge Reinhart handle that lawsuit, as would be the normal procedure, Judge Cannon chose to decide the matter.



Shocking legal experts across ideological lines, she barred investigators from gaining access to the evidence and appointed a special master, although she said that person would only make recommendations to her and she would make the final decisions.




Judge Cannon’s decision was unusual in part because she intervened before there were any charges — treating Mr. Trump differently from typical targets of search warrants based on his supposed special status as a former president.




She also directed the special master to consider whether some of the seized files should be permanently kept from investigators under executive privilege, a notion that was widely seen as dubious since it has never successfully been made in a criminal case.

Prosecutors appealed to the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta. In a repudiation, a three-judge panel that included two Trump appointees   reversed her order   and ruled that   she never had legal authority to intervene   in the first place.

“It is indeed extraordinary for a warrant to be executed at the home of a former president — but not in a way that affects our legal analysis or otherwise gives the judiciary license to interfere in an ongoing investigation,” the panel wrote.



Limits on when courts can interfere with a criminal investigation “apply no matter who the government is investigating,” it added. “To create a special exception here would defy our nation’s foundational principle that our law applies ‘to all, without regard to numbers, wealth or rank.’”




Mr. Trump’s lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court, but it declined to hear the case . In December 2022, Judge Cannon dismissed Mr. Trump’s lawsuit.




Six months later, the grand jury in Miami indicted Mr. Trump, alleging in detail how he had stored highly sensitive documents in a bathroom and on a stage at Mar-a-Lago and persistently led his aides and lawyers to stymie efforts by the Justice Department and the National Archives to recover them.

Under the district’s standard practices,   according to its clerk , the new case went into a system that would randomly assign it to one of a handful of judges whose chambers are in the West Palm Beach division, which covers Mar-a-Lago, or in either of its two adjoining divisions, Fort Pierce and Fort Lauderdale.

It went to Judge Cannon .











Red Box Rules

Note that Judge Merchan is never mentioned and post accordingly.


 

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Hallux
PhD Principal
1  seeder  Hallux    3 weeks ago

Two tier justice system? Judge Cannon seems to be trying to add a third tier.

384

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Principal
2  Sean Treacy    3 weeks ago

I appreciate the left's ability to swing from proclaiming that  questioning a judge's ruling  is unamerican to "this judge is crooked" within a couple weeks.  Good stuff.   

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Professor Principal
2.1  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Sean Treacy @2    3 weeks ago

It's all about who the defendant is.  In this case, they fear the defendant and any means to carry out a proper trial is seen as being crooked.

 
 
 
Hallux
PhD Principal
2.2  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Sean Treacy @2    3 weeks ago
within a couple weeks.

Where have you been lurking for well over a year?

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
2.3  Tessylo  replied to  Sean Treacy @2    3 weeks ago

I knew she was bought and paid for from the beginning, like Ginni, I mean Clarence and Alito, whatever his wife's name is.

 
 
 
evilone
Professor Guide
3  evilone    3 weeks ago

Again, Smith can appeal any ruling she makes and if she has too many rulings overturned she can be replaced. This is the system we have. 

 
 
 
Ozzwald
Professor Quiet
3.1  Ozzwald  replied to  evilone @3    3 weeks ago
Again, Smith can appeal any ruling she makes and if she has too many rulings overturned she can be replaced. This is the system we have.

Which is why she is constantly using "Paperless Orders" instead of official rulings.  Paperless orders cannot be appealed the same way an actual ruling or judgement can.

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Professor Principal
4  Jeremy Retired in NC    3 weeks ago

Aileen Cannon Could Appoint Supervisor to Oversee Jack Smith

The judge overseeing   Donald Trump's classified documents case could anoint someone to oversee Special Counsel   Jack Smith   if she agrees with suggestions put forward by professors. Judge   Aileen Cannon   is set to hold hearings to discuss whether Smith   was unlawfully appointed   by Attorney General   Merrick Garland   as Special Counsel in the classified documents investigation, and that the federal charges against Trump should therefore be dismissed.

 
 
 
Hallux
PhD Principal
4.1  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @4    3 weeks ago

Seth Barrett Tillman should be a hoot if he can stop drinking Irish.

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Professor Principal
4.1.1  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Hallux @4.1    3 weeks ago

is that the shiny object that are feebly trying to use as a distraction?

 
 
 
Hallux
PhD Principal
4.1.2  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @4.1.1    3 weeks ago

Run out of pronouns?

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
4.1.3  Texan1211  replied to  Hallux @4.1.2    3 weeks ago

here are some if you are missing them:

  1. They/them: 
  2. Ze/zir: 
  3. Ey/em: 
  4. Xe/xem:
 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Professor Principal
4.1.4  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Hallux @4.1.2    3 weeks ago

Just trying to decipher the idiocy of 4.1.  

 
 
 
Hallux
PhD Principal
4.1.5  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @4.1.4    3 weeks ago

"Trying" is where you went wrong.

 
 
 
Ed-NavDoc
Professor Quiet
5  Ed-NavDoc    3 weeks ago

This ought to be interesting.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Senior Expert
6  Drinker of the Wry    3 weeks ago

I thought Cannon was a terrible choice if for no other reason than her lack of experience.  Add the to the complexities of a classified information case and pressure of an ex-president defendant, no new jurist would be very qualified.  

Jack Smith made a mistake in picking Florida as the venue.  Northern VA would have been a much better venue.  The jury pool would likely know more about handling classified and he would less likely have a jury member that loves Trump, than in Florida.   

I don't see this case going anywhere until after the election, if then.

 
 
 
Hallux
PhD Principal
6.1  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @6    3 weeks ago
Northern VA would have been a much better venue.

Why, were boxes stuffed in the open there also?

 
 
 
bugsy
Professor Participates
6.1.1  bugsy  replied to  Hallux @6.1    3 weeks ago
were boxes stuffed in the open there also?

I think the closest space to northern Va was the Penn/Biden center at the U of Penn

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Senior Expert
6.1.2  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  Hallux @6.1    3 weeks ago

No, but much of the info originated there and Maryland, both would have been better locations from the prosecution perspective.

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
7  TᵢG    3 weeks ago

Cannon is obviously doing everything she can to delay this trial.   At this point, this is not even debatable.

Looks like she will prevail and this case will never even start before the election.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
7.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  TᵢG @7    3 weeks ago

She sounds very arrogant in not taking advice from the more experienced judges

 
 
 
bugsy
Professor Participates
7.1.1  bugsy  replied to  Trout Giggles @7.1    3 weeks ago
She sounds very arrogant in not taking advice from the more experienced judges

How would you describe another Trump judge taking advice from a lawyer not associated with his case?

Most people would think that is more troubling than a judge not stepping aside, even one with obvious conflicts of interests like donating to Biden or whose daughter raises money off Trump trials.

 
 
 
Hallux
PhD Principal
7.1.2  seeder  Hallux  replied to  bugsy @7.1.1    3 weeks ago
like donating to Biden

Yikes a whole 35$ ... surely that is why Trump lost in 2020.

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
7.1.3  TᵢG  replied to  bugsy @7.1.1    3 weeks ago

Of course, you try to counter TG with deflection.   

Is it your position that Cannon is being objective and proper rather than deliberately delaying this case?

 
 
 
bugsy
Professor Participates
7.1.4  bugsy  replied to  TᵢG @7.1.3    3 weeks ago
Of course, you try to counter TG with deflection.

Yet very relevant to her "argument".

Maybe you can let her answer for herself.

"Is it your position that Cannon is being objective and proper rather than deliberately delaying this case?"[]

 
 
 
Tacos!
Professor Guide
7.1.6  Tacos!  replied to  bugsy @7.1.1    3 weeks ago

That judge actually sought counsel from a judicial ethics committee and was advised he need not recuse himself.

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
7.1.7  TᵢG  replied to  Tacos! @7.1.6    3 weeks ago

In direct contrast to what Cannon did.

 
 
 
bugsy
Professor Participates
7.1.8  bugsy  replied to  Tacos! @7.1.6    3 weeks ago
judicial ethics committee

In New York, that is known as an oxymoron.

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
7.1.9  Tessylo  replied to  Hallux @7.1.2    3 weeks ago

It was $15

 
 
 
Tacos!
Professor Guide
7.1.10  Tacos!  replied to  bugsy @7.1.8    3 weeks ago

Expert analysis

/s

 
 
 
bugsy
Professor Participates
7.1.11  bugsy  replied to  Tacos! @7.1.10    3 weeks ago

Glad you put the s/ because I never claimed it.

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
7.1.12  Tessylo  replied to  Tacos! @7.1.10    3 weeks ago

Your analyses are!  Everyone here who values decency and honesty and fairness and an objective view on these issues would agree with me.  Your views in these matters, IMHO, are above reproach because you have knowledge and facts to back you up.

 
 
 
Igknorantzruls
Freshman Quiet
7.2  Igknorantzruls  replied to  TᵢG @7    3 weeks ago
Cannon is obviousl

Loose,

and Loose cannons sink kitchens out with the bath ships...

How the Hell did we wind up here ?

WTF happened to this once great country ??

Trump supporters/cult members have given this POS more lifelines and breaks than I've ever seen ANY politician given. They will own the MESS we get if this FCK UP POS LYING SCUMBAG , is somehow again implanted , almost like somebody again, Puthimin OUR WHITE HOUSE

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
7.2.1  Tessylo  replied to  Igknorantzruls @7.2    3 weeks ago

Your last sentence there, IMHO, is the truth right there, like in 2016

 
 
 
Tacos!
Professor Guide
8  Tacos!    3 weeks ago

It does seem fairly plain at this point that she is trying to delay the trial.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Senior Expert
8.1  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  Tacos! @8    3 weeks ago

And or she is in way over her legal experience head.

 
 
 
Split Personality
Professor Guide
8.1.1  Split Personality  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @8.1    3 weeks ago

Both appear to be true.

Imagine inviting private groups not party to the case to be allowed to participate in oral arguments

or all of the Republican states AG's none of whom have standing,

only to reverse herself a few weeks later.

A few weeks here, a few weeks there....is she SCOTUS material?

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Principal
8.1.2  Sean Treacy  replied to  Split Personality @8.1.1    3 weeks ago
inviting private groups not party to the case to be allowed to participate in oral arguments

That's very common.  

 
 
 
Tacos!
Professor Guide
8.1.3  Tacos!  replied to  Sean Treacy @8.1.2    3 weeks ago

No it isn’t. Not in a criminal case at the level of trial - or in this case, pre-trial. You see it some on appeal, and more obviously at the SCOTUS level. 

It is relatively common in civil cases.

 
 
 
Tacos!
Professor Guide
8.1.4  Tacos!  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @8.1    3 weeks ago

I’m just not sure what to make of her entertaining the idea that it’s somehow inappropriate for the special prosecutor to be prosecuting the case. This is not a new thing. A special prosecutor just got through the Hunter Biden trial and nobody thought it strange at all. 

 
 
 
Ozzwald
Professor Quiet
8.1.5  Ozzwald  replied to  Split Personality @8.1.1    3 weeks ago
A few weeks here, a few weeks there....is she SCOTUS material?

If Trump wins, you know she'll be tops on his list.

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
8.1.6  Tessylo  replied to  Sean Treacy @8.1.2    3 weeks ago

[deleted][]

 
 
 
Greg Jones
Professor Participates
9  Greg Jones    3 weeks ago

Trouble with those "older and more experienced" judges is that they're probably Biden supporting liberals. We've got too many of those already. Sounds like she is totally opposite to Judge Merchan and his brand of "justice".

If Biden isn't held responsible for keeping supposedly confidential documents unsecured in several places, then Trump shouldn't be keeping the ones in his possession under lock and key. 

Everyone knows what's going on with all these sham "get Trump for the flimsiest of reasons" political show trials. At any rate, none of these malicious prosecutions seems to have had any effect upon the voters

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
9.1  Tessylo  replied to  Greg Jones @9    3 weeks ago

Yeah, most of us knew you were going to vote for that worthless POS, like any other magat, no matter what it did.

 
 
 
Tacos!
Professor Guide
9.2  Tacos!  replied to  Greg Jones @9    3 weeks ago
Trouble with those "older and more experienced" judges is that they're probably Biden supporting liberals.

Perhaps not. One of the judges has been identified as Southern District of Florida Chief Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga. I don’t know if she belongs to a political party, or how she votes, but she was initially nominated to the District Court by President George W. Bush.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
10  Kavika     3 weeks ago

Cannon could be a pick for SCOTUS if one opens up and Trump becomes president.

 
 
 
Hallux
PhD Principal
10.1  seeder  Hallux  replied to  Kavika @10    3 weeks ago
Cannon could be a pick for SCOTUS

Maybe Thomas could mentor her, both have a yearning for acquisitions beyond their means.

 
 

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