Even Judge Cannon’s Colleagues Knew She’d Be A Disaster On The Trump Case

Aileen Cannon

As of this writing, Judge Aileen Cannon is holding a multi-day hearing, complete with oral argument by amici, to determine whether special counsels are illegal. The legitimacy of special counsel appointments has been settled law since the Watergate era, and the same question posed no great challenge to Judge Maryellen Noreika, who disposed of it in a nine-page ruling when Hunter Biden sought to challenge the appointment of Special Counsel David Weiss in his gun case. Noreika noted that judges in the Eastern District of Virginia and the District Court for DC had ruled on the issue when Paul Manafort challenged Robert Mueller’s appointment, and that the DC Circuit had sloughed off a similar challenge by one of Roger Stone’s cronies in his criminal prosecution.

But this isn’t the only area of law which appears to have given Judge Cannon trouble, while redounding to Donald Trump’s strategic advantage. There’s also the dozens of motions she’s allowed to pile up, her evident inability to distinguish between discovery and evidence (along with the difference between FRE and FRCrP), and her blatant disregard for witness safety.

In short, Judge Cannon earned every bit of scorn she’s getting for her conduct in this case, along with the challenge to the underlying search warrant, which was scornfully reversed by the Eleventh Circuit last year.

As the New York Times’s Alan Feuer put it in his devastating profile, “The portrait that has emerged so far is that of an industrious but inexperienced and often insecure judge whose reluctance to rule decisively even on minor matters has permitted one of the country’s most important criminal cases to become bogged down in a logjam of unresolved issues.” Or as a source told Rolling Stone’s Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley, she’s “a godsend” to the Trump campaign.

And, as Feuer and his colleague Charlie Savage reported last night, Judge Cannon’s manifest inability to handle a case of this magnitude and complexity was apparent to her colleagues back in 2023 when it was assigned to her. According to the Times, Judge Cannon was urged by two separate judges in the Southern District of Florida, including Chief Judge Cecilia Altonaga, a GWB appointee, to recuse herself from the case.

First an unnamed judge urged her to step back and allow the case to be heard at a courthouse in Miami, where there was already a SCIF for the review of classified documents. Instead, Judge Cannon forced the government to pay to construct one at her tiny courthouse in Fort Pierce, and even excoriated the prosecutors for failing to build one there before bringing the indictment.

Then Judge Altonaga urged Judge Cannon to recuse herself because of the “bad optics” of having the same judge who had just gotten humiliatingly reversed for interfering in the warrant that led up to the indictment hear the prosecution. That effort was no more availing than the first.

Savage and Feuer also note that Judge Cannon has doggedly refused to delegate any work to a magistrate judge, even as the unresolved pleadings pile up. This is hardly surprising, however, since in the warrant challenge she first delegated authority to Judge Raymond Dearie, a jurist with decades of experience who was sitting as special master to sort through the evidence seized by the FBI at Trump’s private club. But when Dearie told Trump he’d have to specify what evidence had been “planted” by the FBI, Judge Cannon swooped in within hours to countermand Dearie’s order and ensure that Trump wouldn’t have to say under oath what his surrogates were saying all over television.

Seems that Judge Cannon can move fast if she wants to — which suggests that this case is moving exactly as fast as she intends.

Judge in Trump Documents Case Rejected Suggestions to Step Aside [NYT]
US v. Trump [SDFL Docket via Court Listener]

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