The Justice Department has now had its first major setback in its investigation into Donald Trump. Yesterday, Eileen Canada, the federal judge in Florida who is overseeing the Mara Lago search, granted Donald Trump’s request to allow an independent and special master to go through all the materials seized from Trump’s home. Here was the New York Times headline deeply Problematic experts Question Judges Intervention in Trump Inquiry. One former Homeland Security official from the George W. Bush administration called it a genuinely unprecedented decision by a judge.
A Harvard Law School professor called Cannon’s reasoning thin at best and deeply problematic. A New York University law professor told the Times that the judge chose a radical path. So basically, the entire legal community is shocked by this judge’s call. But you know who isn’t? Donald Trump.
And you know why? Judge Eileen Cannon, the judge who made this decision, was appointed by Donald Trump. She was confirmed in the final days of his presidency after Trump lost the 2020 election. Like many Trump appointees, Judge Cannon is a longtime member of the Federalist Society, a well-financed and highly influential conservative group that aligned itself with Trump well before he was even elected. The Federalist Society is instrumental in championing judges with hardline conservative views and ties to the conservative movement and getting them appointed to the federal bench.
Case in point should the Justice Department choose to appeal this ruling, they will be doing so in the 11th Circuit, an appeals court where the majority of judges were also appointed by Donald Trump. Several of those Trump appointees are also members of the Federalist Society. And above that court, there is a Supreme Court with a six to three conservative majority, one where half the conservative judges were appointed by Donald Trump. And all three of Trump’s Supreme Court nominees were also hand-picked by the Federalist Society. That is a lot of hardline conservatives on the bench, courtesy of Donald Trump and the Federalist Society’s very successful coproduction.
Remember that during his presidency, trump and Mitch McConnell appointed more than 200 judges to lifetime appointments on the federal bench, including those three Supreme Court seats, one of which, lest we forget, senator McConnell blatantly stole from President Obama. Of all the judges currently on the federal bench, more than a quarter of them were appointed by Donald Trump. In just four years. Trump and McConnell appointed 54 judges to federal appeals courts, nearly as many as Barack Obama confirmed during his entire eight-year presidency. And most of Trump’s judicial nominees were very young at the time of their nomination, and they are all extremely conservative.
Eileen Cannon, for example, the judge in this Mara Lago case, is only 41 years old. She was 39 when Trump nominated her as a district judge. Cannon had worked as a clerk for a conservative judge on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. But other conservative Trump appointees have not had the most extensive resumes considering that these are lifetime judicial appointments. Take 35-year-old Catherine Kimball Misell, who had never tried a case before Donald Trump, gave her a lifetime appointment to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida earlier this year.
She was the one who handed down the opinion, abruptly ending the federal mask mandate on the US. Airlines. Or there is 39-year-old Judge Justin Walker, who had also never tried a case in his life when President Trump appointed him to the federal bench in 2019. In 2020, Judge Walker ruled in favor of a Louisville wedding photographer who wanted to deny service to same-sex couples. That decision was appealed.
But just last week, another judge once again sided with the photographer, and this time, the judge was a guy named Benjamin Beaton, a 40-year-old judge, another appointee of, wait for it Donald Trump. As much as legal experts would like to believe that cases like this are decided on the merits of the argument made in court, the rulings of judges like Eileen Cannon and Kathryn Misell, and Justin Walker, all suggest that something else, something particularly partisan, may be at play. And for Democrats who currently hold both the White House and the Senate, the only way to fight back may be to remake the federal bench. Today, the Senate returned to Washington to finish its work for the year, which includes confirming a whole lot of President Biden’s judicial nominees. Just last week, President Biden named eight more judges for the Senate to confirm to the federal bench.
But despite confirming judges at a pace unmatched by any president since JFK, there remains a lot to do. There are still 78 district and appeals court vacancies to fill before the end of this year when Democrats could very well lose control of the Senate. So tick tock. Right? Tonight, Democrats confirmed a new circuit court judge in Illinois.
And tomorrow, Senate Democrats will hold hearings for six more federal judges. If they needed any more evidence about why these things matter, they need look no further than the Florida courtroom, where the nation is watching the consequences of Trump’s judicial confirmations spree play out in real-time. A Florida judge single-handedly put the brakes on a criminal investigation into the former President of the United States and could literally change the course of American history.