Special Master Appointed in Mar-a-Lago Document Review
The federal judge who granted former President Donald Trump’s request for a special master has appointed one. Retired federal judge Raymond J. Dearie, described “as an exemplary jurist who is well suited to the job of special master, having previously served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”
In appointing the special master, Cannon appeared to leave most details of the review up to Dearie, including what type of material might be covered by executive privilege, a loosely defined legal concept that has historically been applied to material about a sitting president’s deliberations, to shield them from another branch of government or the public. In this case, Trump’s lawyers have raised the possibility that Trump, as a former president, could claim such a privilege over material sought by the executive branch. Cannon’s rulings in the case have not made clear how she would define such a privilege.
Cannon’s order Thursday night also seems to imply that it will be in some measure up to Dearie to decide whether the 100 or so documents marked classified are, in fact, classified, and whether Trump can make any privilege claim over them.
Dearie, 78, was nominated to the federal bench in Brooklyn by President Ronald Reagan after serving as U.S. attorney in the same district. Fellow lawyers and colleagues describe him as an exemplary jurist who is well suited to the job of special master, having previously served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees sensitive national security cases.
Patrick Cotter, who served as a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, said he was surprised Trump’s team suggested such a smart, low-key judge.
“There wasn’t much personality, and I mean that as a compliment. Ray wasn’t chummy, and he wasn’t a good ol’ Brooklyn boy or highfalutin’ guy trying to impress you,” Cotter said. “He was a very matter-of-fact, down to earth judge with a minimum of pomposity. He will do a credible job, and will do it quickly.”
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Paul Bergman, a former federal prosecutor and a friend of Dearie’s for decades, called him “a perfect choice for this kind of thing, in terms of his rock-bottom judicial integrity.”
Bergman said Dearie “has been called upon to perform something that is a vital task, and I don’t know that there’s anybody, frankly, out there better qualified to do this than him.”
In 2015, Dearie took the unusual step of reducing the prison sentences of three convicted Canadian terrorists, saying he had been “haunted” by the case and his growing sense that their sentences were unfair.
Under federal law, Dearie had been required to sentence the men to 25-year terms for conspiring to acquire missiles on behalf of the Tamil Tigers, a rebel group fighting the government of Sri Lanka. He later cut those sentences to 15 years.