Court Battles

Supreme Court rejects Trump plea for intervention on special master

The Supreme Court on Thursday denied former President Trump’s plea to intervene in his legal battle and allow the special master to review the classified documents seized at Mar-a-Lago.

The court’s move came in a brief unsigned order without explanation. Justice Clarence Thomas, who handles emergency matters arising from Florida, had referred the matter to the full court.

Trump’s request to the high court followed an interim ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in favor of the Justice Department that exempted roughly 100 classified records from review by a neutral party, known as a special master, from the voluminous records seized from Trump’s Florida home.

Trump’s lawyers, in court papers filed last week, argued that the Atlanta-based federal appeals court erred by allowing the Justice Department to appeal a move that was procedural in nature. They urged the justices vacate the 11th Circuit’s partial stay, arguing that it “impairs substantially the ongoing, time-sensitive work of the Special Master.”

The Supreme Court’s denial of the request means fewer than five justices voted in Trump’s favor, though a vote breakdown was not publicly disclosed, as is typical. 

The investigation into Trump’s potentially criminal mishandling of highly sensitive government information has been ensnared in procedural court wrangling since shortly after the FBI executed a search warrant at Trump’s Palm Beach residence in early August.  

In September, a Trump-appointed federal judge in Florida granted the former president’s request for the appointment of a special master to determine if the seized materials exceeded the scope of the FBI’s search warrant, or contained any information subject to attorney-client or executive privilege. 

The judge presiding over Trump’s request, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, also ordered federal agents to suspend their investigative review of the seized materials to allow the special master’s work to proceed — the portion of her order that was later halted in part by the 11th Circuit while the DOJ’s formal appeal continues.

Specifically, the Atlanta-based appeals court’s ruling effectively let federal agents continue reviewing the roughly 100 classified documents that were among the records taken in August from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, which prompted Trump’s emergency filing to the Supreme Court. 

Judge Raymond Dearie, who was selected for the special master role after he was suggested by Trump, has already begun initial work in reviewing the nearly 11,000 government records seized during the search that do not bear any classification markings.

This story was updated at 5:46 p.m.

Tags Clarence Thomas Donald Trump Supreme Court

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