Trump-appointed judge will stay on Mar-a-Lago documents case unless she recuses

A federal judge appointed to the bench by Donald Trump and previously scrutinised for rulings that were solidly in Mr Trump’s favour was assigned to preside over his prosecution in a Florida court under normal procedures, denying the possibility that the case will be reassigned.

That was the explanation from the chief clerk of the court in a statement to The New York Times this weekend as many raised their eyebrows and speculated about the effect that Ms Cannon’s rulings could have in the upcoming criminal trial of the former president.

Mr Trump is charged with 37 felony counts related to mishandling of presidential records, including national defence information. He has claimed innocence in postings on social media, though images have been released purporting to show records stacked in boxes and crammed into a Mar-a-Lago bathroom.

In emailed correspondence with the Times, chief clerk Angela Noble explained that Ms Cannon was randomly assigned to the case under the court’s normal procedures, meaning that the case would only be assigned to a different judge were Ms Cannon to recuse herself voluntarily.

“Normal procedures were followed,” Ms Noble told the Times.

But those “random” assignments are far from a mathemetician’s definition of the word. Different judges at the US Court for the Southern District of Florida take cases from different areas in the state, and according to Ms Noble, Ms Cannon “draws 50 per cent of her cases from West Palm Beach, increasing her odds.”

Two other judges on the court are also not accepting new assignments from that part of the state, further raising the likelihood that Ms Cannon would have been assigned the case.

All in all, it’s as favourable a situation as the former president could reasonably hope for as his second criminal proceeding begins. Ms Cannon previously oversaw another iteration of the Justice Department’s investigation into Mr Trump’s handling of classified records when she was appointed to preside over the dispute that arose as a result of the FBI’s raid of Mar-a-Lago.

At the time, Ms Cannon ruled that a special master be appointed to review the documents and temporarily forbade the DoJ from viewing the classified materials seized from Mar-a-Lago; that latter ruling was overturned by an appeals court.