Judge Names Special Master to Review FBI Raid Documents, Rejects DOJ Criminal Probe Request

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Florida-based U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon on Thursday appointed a senior Brooklyn federal judge to serve as special master to independently review documents the FBI seized from former President Donald Trump‘s Florida estate.

U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie will serve as an independent arbiter in the case, tasked with deciding whether any of the seized documents are privileged and should be off limits to federal investigators.

Cannon, who was nominated by Trump in 2020, also rejected the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) bid to revive its criminal investigation into classified documents seized during the unprecedented raid at Mar-a-Lago last month. The matter is expected to move quickly to an appeals court, and potentially the U.S. Supreme Court.

The DOJ said in a court filing (pdf) on Monday that Dearie has “substantial judicial experience” in cases involving national security and privilege concerns to qualify him for the special master role, but that it opposed private attorney Paul Huck, the other candidate proposed by Trump’s lawyers.

Lawyers for Trump opposed Barbara S. Jones and Thomas B. Griffith, two retired federal judges whom the DOJ proposed to be the special master.

Republican President Ronald Reagan appointed Dearie to the federal bench in Brooklyn in 1986, where he was chief judge of that court from 2007 to 2011. Before that he served as U.S. attorney there. He now serves as a semi-retired senior judge.

Dearie served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court between 2011 and 2019. That court reviews warrant applications from the U.S. government on matters of national security.

Special Master Duties

As part of his review all of the seized materials, Dearie is tasked with verifying that the property identified in the “Detailed Property Inventory” represents the “full and accurate extent” of the property seized, which may include obtaining sworn affidavits from DOJ personnel, according to court documents.

Dearie is also tasked with conducting a privilege review of the seized documents and make recommendations to the court about any disputes between the parties. He is furthermore assigned to identify personal documents and items, presidential records, and make recommendations to the court about any categorization disputes.

By Caden Pearson

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