Appeals Court Orders End to Special Master Review Process in Trump Documents

Daniel Perodin, Staff Writer

On Dec. 1, the 11th United States Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the judge of a lower federal court in Florida was mistaken to appoint a special master in the Mar-a-Lago document case. A panel consisting of three judges in Atlanta decided to end the third-party review of documents taken from former President Donald Trump’s resort.

The case stems from accusations that Trump took sensitive documents from the White House in an unauthorized manner before he left the presidency. Some of the documents are thought to contain nuclear secrets. Once a president has left office, they are required by the Presidential Records Act to hand over documents to the National Archives.

From the start, the case has been shrouded in controversy and unprecedented rulings. Trump has said that reports of him not complying with the law are “fake news.” Following the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago, an armed man attacked an FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio, citing the raid at Mar-a-Lago as his motive. 

After the raid by the FBI, Trump sued the Justice Department to appoint a “special master,” or third party, to review the case. Judge Aileen Cannon ruled in favor of Trump, and a special master, Raymond Dearie, was appointed. 

“I actually have never seen it happen before in an investigation part of the case,” Miami Palmetto Senior High AP U.S. Government and AP Comparative Government teacher Kenneth Spiegleman said.

This latest ruling is a blow to Trump’s legal team. The reversal of lower court rulings is not uncommon in the American legal system.

“That is the purpose of appeals courts, it is to decide whether or not what the lower court did was appropriate,” Spiegelman said.

The U.S. has not seen an investigation of this nature in recent history. That is what makes each development in this case so significant.

“I think that President Nixon was in front of the Supreme Court about an issue of failure to turn over evidence but I do not think there was an actual prosecution. There have been cases of other federal officials being charged criminally but I cannot think of a case where the president or a former president has been charged criminally,” Spiegelman said.

For all the rulings, the justice department has not officially charged anyone in the case. It is important to note that this is still just an investigation. The justice department has not charged anybody relating to the documents allegedly taken to Mar-a-Lago. The latest ruling is an indication that the case is moving along in the legal process.