Appeals court panel orders Trump ‘special master’ lawsuit over FBI raid dismissed

Two weeks after the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump filed a civil lawsuit that, among other things, sought and obtained the appointment of a “special master” to review all seized materials prior to the government using them in its investigation.

Yet, an appeals court panel just ruled that the district judge lacked the jurisdiction to even consider Trump’s lawsuit, let alone appoint the special master, and proceeded to vacate the judge’s prior ruling and order the suit to be summarily dismissed, the Daily Caller reported.

The ruling is a substantial blow to the former president’s efforts to forestall or avoid the Justice Department’s probe into whether any criminal statutes were violated by Trump’s possession of government records and documents marked as classified at his south Florida resort and residence.

Appeals court smacks down district judge, Trump lawsuit

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued on Thursday a 21-page opinion that immediately stated: “This appeal requires us to consider whether the district court had jurisdiction to block the United States from using lawfully seized records in a criminal investigation. The answer is no.”

The appeals court referenced how Florida-based U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon had seemingly ignored the limiting precedence of a case known as Richey v. Smith and its four-part test in order to take the “extraordinary” step of granting a rare doctrine known as “equitable jurisdiction” in order to accept Trump’s lawsuit and, further, appoint the special master and order restrictions on how the FBI and DOJ conducted its investigation of the seized documents.

“In considering these arguments, we are faced with a choice: apply our usual test; drastically expand the availability of equitable jurisdiction for every subject of a search warrant; or carve out an unprecedented exception in our law for former presidents. We choose the first option. So the case must be dismissed.”

Trump did not meet the standard for “equitable jurisdiction”

The appeals court judges went on to apply the four-part Richey test to Trump’s case and found that he had failed to pass any of the required steps, namely that the government showed “callous disregard” for his constitutional rights, that he had an individual interest in the seized materials, that he would suffer irreparable harm if the materials weren’t returned, and that he had no other remedy at hand to redress his grievances.

“The law is clear,” the panel concluded. “We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so.”

“Either approach would be a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations. And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations,” they added. “Accordingly, we agree with the government that the district court improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction, and that dismissal of the entire proceeding is required.”

The entire opinion was a clear and unmistakable rebuttal of the arguments presented by former President Trump as well as an unsubtle rebuke of Judge Cannon for even accepting and acting upon the case in the first place instead of immediately dismissing it for a lack of jurisdiction.

Appeal to SCOTUS likely

According to Reuters, the 11th Circuit panel gave a seven-day window before its orders to vacate and dismiss take effect, which allows time for Trump’s attorneys to appeal the matter to the Supreme Court, which they have signaled that they intend to do.

The outlet further noted that a spokesperson for the former president downplayed the ruling as being “purely procedural and based only on jurisdiction” and having nothing to do with the merits of Trump’s claims, and further asserted that Trump “will continue to fight against the weaponized Department of ‘Justice,’ while standing for America and Americans.”

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