“Humiliation for Judge Cannon”: Judge reverses pro-Trump order after getting “slapped down" by court

Judge Aileen Cannon was forced to toss Trump's special master order after a court said she never had jurisdiction

Published December 12, 2022 2:13PM (EST)

Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump's efforts to hamstring the FBI investigation into the classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago estate have officially come to an end. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon on Monday complied with the order handed down by a federal appellate court and dismissed his lawsuit seeking a special master in the case.

Cannon appointed a special master to review the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago three months ago, drawing criticism from legal experts who argued she was intervening in a criminal probe and aiding Trump's attempt to slow down a potential criminal indictment ahead of his 2024 presidential bid.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta earlier this month ruled that Cannon did not have jurisdiction to order a special master in the case and rejected arguments that Trump should be treated differently than any other investigation target. 

Cannon on Monday dismissed the case from her private chambers in Fort Pierce, Florida, and admitted she did not have the jurisdiction to entertain the special master bid. The order noted that all deadlines are terminated, future hearings are canceled and any pending legal arguments are "denied as moot."

The one-page order, which stated the case was "dismissed for lack of jurisdiction," contradicts the 24-page statement Cannon released in September. She was criticized by legal scholars for the unprecedented way in which she inserted herself into an ongoing Justice Department investigation.  

"Three months late but at least it's over," national security lawyer Bradley Moss told The Daily Beast

The case started in August after an unprecedented FBI search of Mar-a-Lago revealed the former president kept nearly 100 documents marked classified, some of which concerned matters of national security, at his private beach club. Mar-a-Lago is also where Trump has hosted political rallies and parties attended by a wide variety of characters, including foreign spies.

On Sept. 5, Cannon issued an order that stopped the FBI from using the 100 documents and ordered a longtime federal judge to review more than 11,000 pages of materials seized from Trump's residence

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Legal scholars immediately called out Cannon, who was appointed by Trump in 2020, for helping Trump delay the probe.

Cannon claimed that the former president was suffering "a real harm" by being "deprived of potentially significant personal documents." This included "medical records" that she said federal agents might leak to the press in an act that risked "irreparable injury" to Trump. However, one of these records was a dubious doctor's note that Trump made public in 2016 in a publicity stunt while running for president. 

The special master that Cannon appointed tried to speed up the document review and investigation, but she tried once again to slow it down by extending deadlines in the case. 

Last month, an appellate panel of three conservative judges rejected the legal arguments from Trump's attorneys and Cannon's logic. 

"We would have to be concerned about the precedent we create that would allow any target of a federal investigation to go into a district court and have it entertain this... and interfere with the executive branch's ongoing investigation," one of the judges stated.

The federal investigation is still ongoing, and is now being led by special counsel Jack Smith, who is known as an aggressive war crimes prosecutor. 

Still, many legal experts say the matter dealt a blow to Cannon's reputation. 

"The case ends in what should be humiliation for Judge Cannon," Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson told The Daily Beast. "She was resoundingly slapped down by her conservative colleagues who explained that it's not just that she had a creative interpretation of the law. It's that she inserted herself into a case where she didn't belong—and essentially acted as another advocate for the former president of the United States."

Levinson added that Cannon's decisions "completely lacked judicial restraint," and that she made "political decisions with no legal basis."

"This is about as bad as it can get for a judge who seeks jurisdiction when she shouldn't, which is to have like-minded appellate judges say, 'What were you even thinking here?'" Levinson said.

Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor, praised the order shutting down the special master "BS" but suggested that Cannon should be investigated for the role she played in Trump's delay tactics.

"The fact that Trump-appointed Judge Cannon wrongfully exercised jurisdiction," he tweted, "thereby 'interfering' (11th Circuit's word) in a fed investigation into Trump, thereby benefiting Trump feels kinda... investigate-able?"

By Samaa Khullar

Samaa Khullar is a former news fellow at Salon with a background in Middle Eastern history and politics. She is a graduate of New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism institute and is pursuing investigative reporting.

MORE FROM Samaa Khullar

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Aggregate Aileen Cannon Donald Trump Jack Smith Mar-a-lago Politics