Appeals Court Stops Special Master Review Of Documents Seized At Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Estate

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Dec 03, 2022 - 12:20 AM

Authored by Caden Pearson via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A federal appeals court on Thursday has put a stop to a special master’s external review of the thousands of documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

Security officers guard the entrance to the Paul G. Rogers Federal Building & Courthouse as the court holds a hearing to determine if the affidavit used by the FBI as justification for the search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate should be unsealed, at the U.S. District Courthouse for the Southern District of Florida in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Aug. 18, 2022. (Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images)

The ruling comes after a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit heard from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Trump’s lawyers on Nov. 22 regarding the government’s motion to remove U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie as special master.

This appointment of a special master by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, barred the DOJ from getting their hands on the documents as they pursued a criminal investigation into Trump “pending resolution” of the review.

The federal appeals court ruled that Cannon had no jurisdiction to exercise what’s known as equitable jurisdiction—or the authority of the court to act in the interest of fairness—in this scenario where an indictment hadn’t been announced and without showing that the seizure of documents was unlawful.

An aerial view of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., on Aug. 10, 2022. (Steve Helber/AP Photo)

Exercising equitable jurisdiction should only be “exceptional” and “anomalous,” the judges said. They noted that legal precedent had limited this jurisdiction with a four-factor test. Trump’s jurisdictional arguments “fail all four factors,” they said.

In their opinion, the judges said they had considered their options: either “drastically expand” the availability of equitable jurisdiction for every subject of a search warrant, carve out an “unprecedented exception” in the law for former presidents, or apply their usual test.

They chose to apply their usual four-factor test, noting that only the “narrowest of circumstances permit a district court to invoke equitable jurisdiction” and that this was “not one of them.”

The appeals court judges remanded the district court to dismiss Trump’s civil action originally calling for the special master.

The law is clear,” the appeals court judges wrote in their opinion (pdf). “We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so.”

“Either approach would be a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations,” the opinion continued. “And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations.”

Jack Smith, a recently appointed special counsel, tasked with leading the investigation into whether the former president violated the Espionage Act and other federal laws through the handling of certain records, including papers with secret markings, brought the appeals court challenge.

Former President Donald Trump leaves the stage after speaking during an event at his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Fla., on Nov. 15, 2022. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The DOJ is looking into any obstruction of justice by Trump, as well as any legal violations involving the removal of White House records.

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