Judge Cannon’s ruling is untethered to the law

By | September 6, 2022

Andrew Weissmann writes:

One of the most dispiriting aspects of the decision yesterday by Federal District Court Judge Aileen Cannon—which granted former President Donald Trump’s request to appoint a special master to review the evidence seized from Mar-a-Lago by the FBI—is that it undermines the work of all the other judges who have tried to adhere to their oath to “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and … faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent” on the office. Her ruling is untethered to the law and presents a skewed recitation of the facts. Her actions make the question “Who appointed the judge?” a sadly relevant one in evaluating a judicial opinion.

Federal courts, with the notable exception of the Supreme Court, have generally fared well in providing a strong check and balance on attempted executive-branch abuses by Donald Trump. His efforts to have the courts further his bid to overthrow the will of the people in the last election have been rejected by judges nominated to the bench by both parties. The rule of law was on full display; courts around the nation repeatedly revealed a forum where facts, legal precedent, and logical reasoning have pride of place.

Cannon’s opinion, by contrast, is so deeply flawed that it’s hard to know where to begin a critique. Let’s start with the unequal application of the law. Although Trump wallows in feigned claims of persecution, in fact he has been privileged by the Justice Department, and now Cannon, in a manner unheard of for any other defendant. Every defendant would relish the opportunity to delay a criminal investigation by having a court enjoin the government from investigation, but that never happens. The time-honored recourse for someone aggrieved by a search is not to have an unelected judge unilaterally decide to enjoin the constitutionally delegated power of the executive branch to investigate and prosecute. The defense remedy is in a post-indictment motion to suppress evidence from a search. [Continue reading…]

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