Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Trump wants high court intervention in Mar-a-Lago documents probe

Amid an independent review of records seized from his home, the former president is fighting to keep classified documents out of investigators' hands.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Former President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to allow review by an independent party of classified documents seized from his Florida home in a criminal investigation that is ongoing. 

The appeal — submitted to Justice Clarence Thomas — contests a unanimous ruling from a panel of 11th Circuit judges that kept classified documents out of reach from a special master appointed in the case. Trump claims the 11th Circuit ruling compromised the integrity of appellate review and ignores the district court’s discretion. 

“This unwarranted stay should be vacated as it impairs substantially the ongoing, time-sensitive work of the Special Master,” Christopher Kise, an attorney for Trump with Continental PLLC, wrote in the application. “Moreover, any limit on the comprehensive and transparent review of materials seized in the extraordinary raid of a President’s home erodes public confidence in our system of justice.” 

FBI agents recovered around 100 classified documents and 11,000 other documents from Mar-a-Lago in August. The government is conducting a criminal investigation into Trump's handling of sensitive documents after the end of his single term. 

Trump requested an independent party examine the seized documents for information protected by attorney-client privilege or executive privilege. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon appointed a special master — Raymond Dearie, a former chief judge of the federal court based in Brooklyn — to determine if any of the documents needed to be returned to Trump. 

The 11th Circuit’s ruling being challenged by Trump also allowed the Department of Justice to continue its use of the seized documents in its criminal investigation. This reversed a ruling from Cannon that halted the department’s use of these materials. Trump’s application to the high court is narrow and does not challenge this part of the ruling. 

Trump’s arguments before the court focus on the appeals court’s jurisdiction, specifically that it was lacking. The application goes on to criticize the government, claiming the Justice Department is objecting to transparency in its investigation. 

“The Government has attempted to criminalize a document management dispute and now vehemently objects to a transparent process that provides much-needed oversight,” Kise wrote. “The Government’s attempt to shield the purportedly classified documents from the ambit of a Senior United States District Judge who served for seven years on the FISA Court, and preclude review by a former President of his own personal and Presidential records, illustrates precisely why the District Court found a special master was appropriate and necessary under the circumstances.” 

The application was submitted to Thomas because the underlying case in Florida falls within his assigned circuit. Thomas could refer the application to the full court. Shortly after the application was submitted, the court asked the government to file a response due next Tuesday.

Follow @KelseyReichmann
Categories / Appeals, Criminal, Government

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.