Trump Case

Trump Case Gets its Special Master: eDiscovery Trends

Florida District Judge Aileen Cannon appointed a Special Master in the Trump case involving the Justice Department probe of documents at former President Donald Trump’s Florida home Mar-a-Lago last month.

In her order reported by the AP and published by Newser here, Judge Cannon refused a Justice Department request to lift her temporary prohibition on the department’s use of the roughly 100 classified records that were taken during the Aug. 8 search. She also granted the newly named special master, Raymond Dearie, access to the entire tranche of documents seized from the property even though the department had said the arbiter shouldn’t be permitted to inspect the batch of classified records.

The Justice Department is expected to contest the judge’s order to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. It had given Cannon until Thursday to put on hold her order barring the continued review of classified records and said it would ask the Atlanta-based appellate court to intervene if she did not do so then.

The selection of Dearie for the Trump case, a former federal prosecutor who for years served as the chief judge of the federal court based in Brooklyn, came after both the Justice Department and Trump’s lawyers made clear that they would be satisfied with his appointment as a special master. Hey, at least they agree on something! 😉

In that role, Dearie will be responsible for reviewing the documents taken during the search of Mar-a-Lago and segregating out any that may be covered by claims of privilege. It is not clear how long the work will take but the special master process has already delayed the investigation, with Cannon directing the Justice Department to temporarily pause core aspects of its probe.

Dearie served as the top federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York from 1982 to 1986, at which point he was appointed to the federal bench by then-President Ronald Reagan. He has also served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorizes Justice Department wiretap applications in investigations involving suspected agents of a foreign power.

Appointment of a Special Master in cases seems to happen more frequently these days, as litigation disputes seem to only get more complicated. Just last month, EDRM published a public comment version of a new Special Masters and Discovery Mediation Bench Book, which discusses (among other things) when they might be appointed or recommended, and the benefits of using one. Perhaps Newser should read it, as they put ‘Special Master’ in quotes in the title of their article. 😀

No surprise that the Court decided to use one here, as this Trump case will likely only get more convoluted – Special Master or no Special Master in yet another instance of eDiscovery in the news.

So, what do you think? Will a Special Master help move this case or along or will it continue to be convoluted? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.


  1. Teflon Don. He will escape all accountability. Over his 4 years in office, Trump and his enablers successfully emasculated the American *justice* system. And his team successfully steered the case to a judge he had just appointed who owed him big time … who had NO judicial experience, and was rejected by the American Bar Association as “incompetent”.

    This is clearly one of the dumbest ruling I’ve read in this whole series of cases against Trump. Judge Cannon has denied the DoJ motion to stay part of her ruling … though as I predicted, no surprise. Before she ruled I said I expected her to do this.

    She opens by saying Dearie should prioritize looking through the 100 classified documents at issue in the motion for a stay first. LOOK THROUGH THEM FOR WHAT? Whether these are still classified government or presidential records? They . do . not . belong . to . Trump. End . of .case.

    She then gets the DoJ argument completely wrong. Did she even read it? She completely leaves out the DoJ argument that EVEN IF these are personal presidential records under the PRA, they STILL belong to the government.

    Next, she goes on to quote criminal procedure … in a CIVIL CASE!!! … and basically says any criminal who complains about whether they can get fruits of a crime returned to them should get a special master.

    She then COMPLETELY ignores the Asst Director of Counterintel at the FBI’s declaration that there WILL BE IRREPARABLE HARM. Then she seems to accuse the DoJ of leaks without evidence.

    She says the governments examples of how the criminal probe is inextricably linked to the risk assessment are vague. THEY USED THE SPECIFIC EXAMPLE OF THE 43 EMPTY FOLDERS, YOU TROGLODYTE!!

    Jesus wept. She says the DoJ can’t be trusted. Has anyone checked to see if she’s communicating with the Trump team on this?

    Not that she gives a damn because she’s working for The Donald and NOT the people, but I surely hope the 11th circuit will upend her bullshit order post haste. Once again, shocked but not surprised. If she is upheld, American justice is completely dead. Shut off the lights on the way out.

    This DOES NOT involve/reflect one bit on eDiscovery. But eDiscovery is fortunate. It is merely part of the corporate legal industrial complex, far removed from the American *justice* system. It should be glad it can thrive in “The Matrix”. And the Alex Jones case? Going no where. He has already salted away his $$$$$ millons which will never be found, and the bankruptcy act will save him just like it saved the Pritzker family in the opioid settlements. The Sackler dynasty’s ruthless marketing of painkillers has generated billions of dollars – and millions of addicts. And they ruthlessly used the American *justice* system to escape accountability, paying peanuts to extricate themselves from the devastation they wreaked.

    So Trump’s machinations are absolutely no surprise. Trump has always cut every corner, trampled on every ethical guideline, while the “justice” system primly weighs up the legal niceties and nuances. They are thumbing through the rulebook of the monastery while in front of them a mafia don set the monastery on fire.

  2. I’m likewise challenged to discern the connection to eDiscovery. So far, I haven’t seen anything that couldn’t have occurred following the Andrew Johnson administration had Johnson been far more corrupt than he was.

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