March 24, 2023

After a controversial ruling in Donald Trump’s ongoing legal battle, a relatively inexperienced judge with no national profile has jumped into the spotlight, marking a victory for the former president.

Judge Erin Cannon has become the latest enemy of the Twitter hashtag resistance movement amid the former president’s efforts to fend off an FBI investigation into his possible illegal retention of classified documents.

As the judge assigned to rule on Mr. Trump’s lawsuit against the Justice Department, Ms. Cannon could play a key role in the former president’s attempt to use legal means to evade prosecution for illegal possession of classified material.

With new scrutiny of her role in overseeing cases that could have a major impact on the investigation, it’s important to understand her background and why so many on the left shake their heads in dismay at the state of the American legal system.

Who is Judge Erin Cannon?

The Colombian joined the federal bench two years ago. She became one of the last judicial nominees sent by Donald Trump’s White House to the U.S. Senate. And that’s where the controversy started: Some argue that it’s totally inappropriate for a judge appointed by a former president to oversee the same former president’s case.

Ms. Cannon was confirmed to the bench by a vote of 56-21, becoming one of a group of followers of the Federalist Society who have been promoted to courts across the country during Trump’s presidency — including all three of his Supreme Courts Nominee.

Ms. Cannon was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, where she held various positions, including its Principal Crimes Unit.

Why is she the subject of so much controversy?

The outrage surrounding Ms Cannon stemmed from her support for Donald Trump’s ruling that a special guru was required to review documents confiscated from his home by FBI agents last month. The ruling is a victory, if only temporarily, for Trump as he seeks to develop a legal defense explaining why classified material marked “top secret” is being held at Mar-a-Lago in defiance of the National Archives. Other questions remain about whether the files are safely stored.

Ms. Cannon’s ruling on the matter is likely to be appealed by the Justice Department, which opposed the special master request on the grounds that its own team was reviewing the materials to determine whether any were privileged. The Justice Department also rejected the idea that presidential privilege could even be applied in this situation. That shaky legal footing has drawn more scrutiny into Ms Cannon’s decision, as well as her conservative background and her citing outsized public interest in interpreting her ruling. Critics argue that if Trump doesn’t get her way, she will bow to the far-right’s warnings (or threats) of unrest.

Her critics included Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribb, who derided the ruling as “lawless” and a delaying tactic.

“She humiliated her position as a Article III judge,” he added.

How will the Justice Department respond to her ruling?

The question facing the Justice Department will be whether to allow special main proceedings, a time-consuming prospect that comes with the possibility of certain documents being ruled as privileged, or fight a ruling that could ultimately take more time — Eventually consumed, it is likely to lead to failure.

“[Y]You have to consider: is it worth the time and effort and delay to overturn this, recognizing that nothing is guaranteed, or are you working with special masters, believing that you have the law in your hands at that stage you stand by your side This side — and is firm enough to believe that whatever damage this ruling does in the future, it will be minimal, if anything,” Bradley Moss, a prominent attorney specializing in national security issues, told Reuters Law and Crime Network this week.

Justice Department officials have yet to explain their plans, but face a Friday deadline in the next few days to nominate their candidates for the special master’s appointment and any restrictions they will see imposed on the process.

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