A federal appeals court has decided to expedite a case over the legality of having a special master oversee the review of a trove of federal records seized from Mar-a-Lago.
A faster resolution to the Justice Department’s appeal in this case could more quickly bring a resolution to the criminal investigation into the handling of former President Donald Trump’s administration records after his presidency.
The Justice Department already has access to more than 100 documents marked as classified that the FBI took from Trump’s Florida estate. But thousands of other documents are being reviewed by a special master, and the DOJ is challenging that process. In expediting the Justice Department’s appeal, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals set a schedule that could make a decision by the end of next month possible.
The appeals court’s decision to expedite came one day after Trump turned to the Supreme Court for intervention in a narrower legal matter related to the special master review. The litigation at the Supreme Court will move parallel to the proceedings happening at 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, unless either court takes further action.
The case stems from a decision by a trial-level judge in South Florida, Aileen Cannon, who agreed last month to appoint a special master at Trump’s request, following the search of his residence in August. That has tied up the Justice Department’s access to evidence for weeks.
The new order from the 11th Circuit, signed by Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan, set a deadline for the final written submission in the appeal for November 17 and said that no extensions would be allowed.
“Having consulted with the Chief Judge, the appeal will be assigned to a special merits panel from the classified appeals log randomly selected by the Clerk,” the order said, a move that means that it will be a different set of judges reviewing the appeal than the circuit court panel who sided with the Justice Department in earlier litigation over the documents marked as classified.
The new panel “will decide when and how to hear oral argument,” the expedition order said.
Trump had argued the case shouldn’t be rushed, floating a schedule that would have dragged the appellate proceedings out until next year.
Apart from the documents marked classified, the special master has about 11,000 other documents seized from Mar-a-Lago. Trump has argued at least some of those documents should be off limits to federal investigators because they are covered by personal, presidential or attorney-client confidentiality.
The role of the special master – senior Judge Raymond Dearie – is to hash out those disputes, but Cannon would eventually have the final say.