We can all agree that there was much schadenfreude on this site today. From watching New York Attorney General Leticia James recite scam after scam after scam while announcing a quarter billion dollar (minimum!) civil suit against Donald Trump to the stay issued by the 11th Circuit upholding national security concerns to E. Jean Carroll announcing she’s filing a civil suit against Trump for a 1990s rape (alleged), today was a very, very bad day from the legal perspective for Donald Trump. Arrows were flying at him from every direction.
Save some of the schadenfreude for poor Aileen Cannon, the staff attorney at a federal prosecutor’s office turned federal judge with a lifetime appointment. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want you to feel sorry for her. I truly want you to savor the fact that the decision means that every future session she has on the bench will be hell for her.
The decision issued by the 11th Circuit didn’t just overrule her widely-mocked opinion, it eviscerated her legal reasoning. Not one of the points Cannon outlined in her decision to deny the stay was recognized as a rational legal point by the three judges–including two appointed by Donald Trump–who heard the Justice Department’s appeal.
The panel repeatedly noted–in polite legalese–that Cannon’s decisions made no sense. The most telling was subtly tucked into page 17 of the decision, where the panel called out Cannon basically yadda yadda yadda-ing around the Richey factors she cited to hear and support the motion by Trump’s lawyers to take extraordinary measures to protect Trump.
In discussing the first factor outlined in Richey v. Smith for granting the additional measures–that is, that prosecutors have shown “callous disregard” for the rights and privacy of the target of a search–Cannon acknowledged in her decision that neither she nor Trump’s attorneys could identify any such action:
With respect to the first factor, the Court agrees with the Government that, at least based on the record to date, there has not been a compelling showing of callous disregard for Plaintiff’s constitutional rights.
How did the 11th’s panel respond to this? Directly, to say the least, citing the necessity for that component to uphold her decision:
The absence of this “indispensab[le]” factor in the Richey analysis is reason enough to conclude that the district court abused its discretion in exercising equitable jurisdiction here. But for the sake of completeness, we consider the remaining factors.
And, boy, did they. As they examined, and summarily dismissed, each factor of Cannon’s decision, they peppered their opinion with very direct admonishments: statements like “We agree [with the Government]” and “We are not persuaded” were woven throughout the decision.
An important statement by the 11th Circuit panel was how forcefully it stood by the classification of the documents, a matter Cannon questioned the veracity of, though it was asserted by the Department of Justice. Cannon expressed doubts about sworn statements by government attorneys claiming the documents were still classified; the panel was having none of it, questioning why a former president would have need of classified (or previously classified) information:
In any event, at least for these purposes, the declassification argument is a red herring because declassifying an official document would not change its content or render it personal. So even if we assumed that Plaintiff did declassify some or all of the documents, that would not explain why he has a personal interest in them.
Frequently in the ruling, the panel questioned how Cannon came to her decisions, noting that plain non-contested evidence pointed to the exact opposite conclusions to which Cannon arrived.
So Trump is going to ruin another person’s reputation, which happens to people who give him their allegiance. Thankfully, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals–with two Trump nominees–has temporarily put a stop to dispensing justice for political favor.