Judge Picks Special Master, Denies DOJ Request For Document Access During Stay


OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.

The judge handling the case of the seized documents from the Mar-a-Lago raid has finally appointed a special master.

Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, also denied a Department of Justice request to lift the stay on the documents it wanted access to, CNN reported.

The special master will be Senior Judge Raymond Dearie, who was put forward as a possible candidate for the special master role by Trump, who had sued in court to obtain the review. The Justice Department also endorsed Dearie’s appointment.

US District Judge Aileen Cannon also rejected the Justice Department’s bid to revive its criminal investigation into classified documents seized at Mar-a-Lago last month. The denial sets the stage for the department’s dispute with Trump over the search to move quickly to an appeals court and potentially the US Supreme Court.

Cannon gave the special master a deadline of November 30 to finish his review of potentially privileged documents. The schedule puts the review ending after the midterm congressional elections — essentially guaranteeing the Mar-a-Lago investigation will move slowly for the next two months, unless a higher court steps in.

Dearie, who was appointed by the late former President Ronald Reagan, was widely believed to be the favorite to be the special master as both the attorneys for the former president and the Department of Justice were said to be fine with him as the pick.


In a court filing this week, prosecutors said they would approve of Raymond J. Dearie due to his “substantial judicial experience,” which includes presiding “over federal criminal and civil cases, including federal cases involving national security and privilege concerns.”

Dearie is a former Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York and served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

For its part, the DOJ suggested that former federal judge Barbara S. Jones or former federal Judge Thomas B. Griffith should be appointed by the court to serve as the “special master.”

“The government understands that each of the three candidates with prior judicial experience also currently employs staff who could assist in timely performing the duties assigned to the special master,” the filing said. “In selecting among the three candidates, the government respectfully requests that the Court consider and select the candidate best positioned to timely perform the special master’s assigned responsibilities.”


The DOJ is also requesting that the court force Trump to pay for the special master in the case, but Trump has said that they should split the cost, Mediaite reported.

“Plaintiff proposes to split evenly the professional fees and expenses of the Special Master and any professionals, support staff, and expert consultants engaged at the Master’s request,” it said in the filing.

“The Government’s position is that, as the party requesting the special master, Plaintiff should bear the additional expense of the Special Master’s work,” it said.

The DOJ also recently appealed the decision of the judge who appointed a special master to oversee the documents seized from Trump’s private residence.

It also asked that asked Judge Aileen Cannon pause her order that blocked the Department of Justice from continuing to review the documents, NBC News reported.

The moves came three days after Cannon approved Trump’s request for a special master to sift through the seized materials to identify personal items and records that are protected by attorney-client privilege or executive privilege.

The DOJ had opposed that request, saying a team of agency officials had already completed a privilege review of the documents, and that a special master could harm the government’s national security interests.

In another court filing Thursday, the DOJ asked Cannon to make public a notice on the status of that team’s filter review process, which had been filed under seal on Aug. 30.

Test your skills with this Quiz!