On Thursday, September 15, US District Judge Aileen Cannon appointed Raymond Dearie as the special master to review the Mar-a-Lago documents seized at Donald Trump’s Florida residence. Dearie is a former federal judge who served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Though this appointment was suggested by Trump’s attorneys, the Justice Department accepted Dearie for this role due to his experience with attorney-client privilege and national security cases.
Known as being fair among prosecutors and defense attorneys, Dearie has the credentials to match his stellar reputation. Formerly the District Court Judge for the Eastern District of New York, Dearie has presided over cases involving mob figures and al-Qaida. Though it was Trump’s team who suggested that Dearie serves as a special master, this request could be misguided. Daniel R. Alonso, a former assistant US Attorney from Dearie’s district, claims the former judge “would never tolerate” the arguments Trump’s lawyers are presenting.
Dearie will have access to all documents, including those deemed classified, but under controlled conditions. Trump has been ordered to pay 100% of all costs the review will incur. Though the Justice Department condones Cannon’s choice of special master, they still deem the role unnecessary. Another blow to the Department is that it will not be able to continue its review of the seized documents as Dearie conducts his own evaluation. The DOJ has expressed concerns that this could be a risk to national security.
Yet Cannon countered the Department’s argument and defended her ruling on the basis that there is currently no suggestion of an “identifiable emergency” or the “imminent disclosure” of the material’s contents from the government. She further stated she was not prepared to handle the documents piecemeal or trust the government’s classification of the material. She also argued that the appointment of a special master would offer “greater fairness to Trump” and that the said appointment wouldn’t have been made unless the court felt the third party could “serve a meaningful purpose.”
The DOJ has appealed the appointment of a special master and Cannon’s pause to its investigation to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Depending on this court’s decision, the case over these documents could make its way to the Supreme Court.