Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
Former President Donald Trump’s federal election case has been on hold for 50 days as he appeals to a higher court on grounds that he is immune from prosecution.
On Dec. 13, 2023, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan issued a pause in the election case in Washington and has signaled, on at least two occasions, that the March trial date that was scheduled last year will likely not hold. The judge also halted the submission of any major motions by President Trump’s attorneys and federal prosecutors.
The case will not resume until the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals resolves the question of whether the former president is immune from criminal prosecution. His attorneys have argued that this is because his activity after the 2020 election was part of his official duties.
When the appeals court, which hasn’t signaled when it will issue an order, renders its decision, President Trump will likely appeal the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court. If that happens, it’s not clear when the election case will resume.
“The timing of a decision by the panel will indeed be a critical determinant of whether the case can go forward expeditiously, Daniel Richman, a Columbia University law professor, told Politico this week. “Quite a few stars would have to align before the trial can proceed,” he added.
Matthew Seligman, a former appeals court law clerk who filed a separate court motion in the immunity case, told the outlet that it’s not clear when the D.C. appeals court will issue a decision. There’s no sign that “we’re really close to a point where the judges in the majority would consider taking whatever measures they could … and it’s not clear what those are,” he said.
D.C. Appeals Court Judge Karen Henderson, the senior judge on the panel, has said she opposes taking the immunity case on an expedited timeline. She also has the right to write the majority opinion if she is part of the majority, as she is the most senior judge on the panel. If she dissents, the judge could also delay the ruling for weeks, the article noted.
In January, Judge Chutkan signaled for a second time that there is a good chance the Trump trial date will likely be postponed to a later date. In a case involving a Jan. 6 defendant, she scheduled a trial for that individual for early April.
Special prosecutor Jack Smith, who brought the charges against the former president, has said that President Trump’s trial will likely take four to six weeks to complete, meaning that the March 4 date will very likely push up against or even conflict with the Jan. 6 defendant’s trial.
Weeks before that order, the U.S. district judge wrote that the March 4 date was meant to provide both the Trump team and the Smith team with more time to prepare. She also adopted President Trump’s lawyers’ recommendations to prevent both the defense and prosecution from issuing new “further substantive pretrial motions without first seeking leave from the court” and that the former president “forfeits no arguments or rights by choosing not to respond at this time.”
Judge Chutkan wrote in January that the Trump team could file more objections to any recent court motions made by the special counsel, even if the D.C. Court of Appeals sends the case back to her jurisdiction.
Several weeks ago, multiple legal analysts said that the March 4 trial start appears to be unlikely at that point. One, a former federal prosecutor, has said it appears unlikely that the trial will start before the November 2024 election due to the appeals process.
“That process will take months, and unless Judge Chutkan lifts the stay, there is a possibility that Trump’s trial does not happen before the November election. The other trial scheduled in April is a reflection of that reality,” Neama Rahmani, the head of West Coast Trial Lawyers, said.
Prosecutors acknowledged in December that the case had been paused, but they said the government would “continue to meet its own deadlines as previously determined” by the court “to promote the prompt resumption of the pretrial schedule” if and when the case returns to Judge Chutkan.
President Trump is accused of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election, which he has vehemently denied. It is one of four criminal cases the Republican candidate is facing as he vies to return to the White House this year.
He has pleaded not guilty to the four cases against him, arguing that the charges were brought to denigrate him politically.
He also faces a civil lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James and was recently ordered by a jury to pay writer E. Jean Carroll $83 million in a defamation case she brought against him. President Trump also denied the accusations made in that case.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.