Judge throws out Donald Trump lawsuit over seized Mar-a-Lago documents
Donald Trump.

The dismissal came after a federal appeals panel ruled the judge did not have authority to grant Trump’s request for a special master.

Donald Trump’s lawsuit seeking a special master review of documents seized at his Palm Beach resort is dead after a judge ruled against involving a third-party arbiter in an ongoing investigation into the former President’s possible misappropriation of White House classified files.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon threw out a lawsuit lawyers filed months ago on behalf of the former President. She cited a “lack of jurisdiction” in a one-page order tossing out the suit that ordered the county Clerk of Court to “close this case.”

Cannon’s ruling came 11 days after a three-judge federal appeals panel decided she did not have authority to grant Trump’s request for a special master, a third-party expert appointed by the court to oversee aspects of a case. In this case, Trump sought a special master to assess thousands of documents federal agents took from his residence at Mar-a-Lago during an Aug. 8 search first reported by Florida Politics.

Cannon had previously ordered the special master4red to determine whether any of the 11,000 documents FBI personnel seized could be removed from a criminal investigation due to executive privilege or attorney-client confidentiality.

She appointed New York federal Judge Raymond Dearie to examine documents Trump took to his personal residences, refusing to allow a team within the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct the review instead.

Dearie was expected to finish his review, including a determination of whether any of the papers were protected by personal privileges, on Friday.

But the DOJ appealed that order in October, arguing the review was unnecessary. On Dec. 1, the 11th U.S. Judicial Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the DOJ, ruling no review was warranted.

The appeals court noted Trump could challenge the results of the search warrant after charges have been filed; however, no charges have yet been brought against him regarding the seized documents. It also gave Trump one week to file an appeal of the decision with the Supreme Court by Dec. 8. He didn’t.

Of note, Cannon and two of the three appeal judges — Andrew Brasher and Britt Grant — were appointed by Trump. Chief Judge William Prior was appointed by former President George W. Bush in 2004.

“The law is clear,” the panel said upon handing down the ruling a week and a half ago. “We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigation after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former Presidents to do so.”

The trio called the arguments Trump’s legal team used to justify the call for a special master a “sideshow” and said his lawyers failed to show FBI agents displayed “callous disregard” for his constitutional rights.

“There is no record evidence that the government exceeded the scope of the warrant — which, it bears repeating, was authorized by a magistrate Judge’s finding of probable cause,” they wrote. “And yet again, (Trump’s) argument would apply universally; presumably any subject of a search warrant would like all of his property back before the government has a chance to use it.”

A spokesperson for the former President, who has announced plans to run in 2024, said the Dec. 1 decision was “purely procedural” and did not address the “impropriety” of the raid, adding that Trump would “continue to fight” the charges.

Trump potentially faces charges of obstruction of justice and violating the Espionage Act.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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