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Judge Gives Prosecutors Twice as Many Pages to Respond to Trump’s Request for Special Master Following Mar-a-Lago Search


Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump waves to supporters lined along on the route to his Mar-a-Lago estate on January 20, 2021 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The U.S. Department of Justice apparently has a lot to say in response to former President Donald Trump’s request that a special master handle the materials seized from his Mar-a-Lago residence and resort.

U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon on Monday granted a request from Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, to submit a brief of up to 40 pages “in order to adequately address the legal and factual issues raised” Trump’s lawyers’ 21-page motion seeking the appointment of a special master, rather than the standard 20 pages. Trump’s team didn’t oppose the request, which Cannon granted not long after it was filed.

Cannon on Saturday had given the DOJ until “on or before” Tuesday to file its response after announcing her “preliminary intent to appoint a special master.” A hearing is scheduled Thursday at 1 p.m. before Cannon at the federal courthouse in West Palm Beach, Florida.

A Trump appointee, Cannon is not the judge who authorized the search warrant at Mar-a-Lago that led to the seizure of boxes of classified national security documents on Aug. 8. That was U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart, who like all federal magistrates is serving an eight-year term at the appointment of the Article III judges in his district.

Trump’s lawyers, include Lindsey Halligan, a solo practitioner in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, James Trusty of Ifrah Law PLLC in Washington, D.C., and M. Evan Corcoran of Silverman Thompson Slutkin & White in Baltimore, Maryland, haven’t challenged the actual search but are instead seeking the return of some property as well as the special master appointment.

Cannon was assigned to the case shortly after it was filed on Aug. 22.

Special masters have been appointed to review potentially privileged materials in other high-profile cases, including a search of Rudy Giuliani’s home and office, a raid involving Michael Cohen’s office, home and hotel room, and a search of the homes of staffers at Project Veritas.

But the Department of Justice also has an internal process for handling such material, known as the privilege-review team or filter/taint team. One was used in the California prosecution of Michael Avenatti for defrauding clients, and the DOJ has said one is being used to review Trump lawyer John Eastman’s cell phone after federal agents seized it in New Mexico in June. A hearing in Eastman’s case had been scheduled for Sept. 6, but a judge vacated it Tuesday morning and will instead rule on the briefings.

The documents at issue in the Mar-a-Lago search, however, go well beyond attorney-client privilege issues and into top-secret national security issues, described by the National Security Counselors as an “exceedingly esoteric corner of the law.”

Leaders of the nonprofit law firm on Monday submitted the names and curriculum vitae of four potential special masters they described as “uniquely qualified” and willing to serve, while caution the group is “not advocating for or against the appointment of a Special Master and take no position on that question.”

The experts are:

  • Heidi Kitrosser, professor, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
  • Mark Rozell, dean, George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government
  • Jonathan Shaub, assistant professor of law, University of Kentucky Rosenberg College of Law
  • Mitchel Sollenberger, Ph.D., professor of political science, University of Michigan-Dearborn

(Image: Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

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A graduate of the University of Oregon, Meghann worked at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, and the Idaho Statesman in Boise, Idaho, before moving to California in 2013 to work at the Orange County Register. She spent four years as a litigation reporter for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and one year as a California-based editor and reporter for and associated publications such as The National Law Journal and New York Law Journal before joining Law & Crime News. Meghann has written for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Bloomberg Law, ABA Journal, The Forward, Los Angeles Business Journal and the Laguna Beach Independent. Her Twitter coverage of federal court hearings in a lawsuit over homelessness in Los Angeles placed 1st in the Los Angeles Press Club's Southern California Journalism Awards for Best Use of Social Media by an Independent Journalist in 2021. An article she freelanced for Los Angeles Times Community News about a debate among federal judges regarding the safety of jury trials during COVID also placed 1st in the Orange County Press Club Awards for Best Pandemic News Story in 2021.