Jun 9, 2023 - Politics & Policy

What to know about Aileen Cannon, the judge overseeing Trump's case

The Federal District court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami is seen in October 2018. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida District Judge Aileen Cannon is scheduled to oversee former President Trump's first court appearance next week, adding an unexpected twist to the historic case involving classified documents.

The big picture: Cannon was nominated to serve on the federal bench by Trump in 2020 and was criticized for ruling in his favor last year, allowing a special master to review evidence seized from Mar-a-Lago in the classified records probe.

  • It's unclear whether Cannon will oversee the entirety of the case.
  • Cannon did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Cannon's background

Cannon, born in Colombia and raised in Miami, Fla., received her bachelor’s degree from Duke University and graduated from the University of Michigan Law School.

  • She clerked for conservative Judge Steven M. Colloton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit before joining law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
  • From 2013 to 2020, she worked as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida in the major crimes and appellate divisions, she said in her Senate questionnaire for judicial nominees.
  • In 2019, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s office reached out to her, saying the GOP senator "wanted to consider [her] for a judicial vacancy in the Southern District of Florida," Cannon said. She was confirmed the following year.

Of note: Cannon listed herself as a longtime member of the Federalist Society, first joining the conservative legal group in 2005.

Criticism in classified docs case

Back in September, Cannon accepted Trump's bid for a special master to review evidence seized by the FBI in the search of his Mar-a-Lago residence.

  • The move essentially halted federal prosecutors' investigation into the handling of the classified documents, until an appeals court ruled to scrap the special master, saying "the district court improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction."
  • The appeals court wrote in its decision that writing a rule to allow subjects of search warrants — including former presidents — to block government investigations "would be a radical reordering of our caselaw" and "would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations."
  • "To create a special exception here would defy our Nation’s foundational principle that our law applies ‘to all, without regard to numbers, wealth, or rank,'" the appeals court wrote.

Details: Cannon had also denied the DOJ's request to exclude classified documents from the special master review.

How a judge is tapped for trial

Federal judges are randomly selected to handle criminal cases.

Yes, but: The odds that Cannon would be selected for this case were fairly low.

What we're watching: Trump's first court appearance is slated for Tuesday at the U.S. District Court in Miami.

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