Meet Aileen Cannon, the Trump-appointed judge who chooses a special master


  • Judge Aileen Cannon recently reversed a big win she handed over to Trump’s defense team.
  • Her decision in September baffled some legal experts, putting the 41-year-old judge in the spotlight.
  • She previously ruled in a case involving Pelosi and AOC.

Judge Aileen Cannon has been randomly assigned one of the nation’s most watched cases involving Donald Trump, and her decision on Monday marks the end of a long legal delay in the Justice Department’s investigation into the documents Trump transferred from his administration to Mar-A-Lago.

In September, Cannon, 41, assigned a special master to review the thousands of documents the Justice Department was seeking to obtain for its investigation. But on Monday, Cannon dismissed Trump’s lawsuit challenging the FBI raid on his South Florida estate.

US District Judge Aileen Cannon reversed course, writing in a page on Monday order that it was dismissing the case for “lack of jurisdiction”.

The decision followed a scathing opinion from a federal appeals court, which overturned Cannon’s original decision on Dec. 1. Less than a week later, a federal appeals court in Atlanta officially ended the review, and Cannon later dismissed the case.

Some legal experts initially criticized Cannon’s decision in September, including Republicans.

“The opinion, I think, was wrong,” Bill Barr, who served as attorney general under Trump, told Fox News on Tuesday. “And I think the government should appeal. It’s deeply flawed in so many ways.”

Trump nominated Cannon in April 2020, and the Senate confirmed her by a 56-21 vote shortly after Trump lost his re-election bid. Twelve Democrats voted to confirm it and 23 senators did not vote.

Since the confirmation, at least one other Cannon case has made national headlines. In April, Cannon oversaw a criminal case in which a Florida man threatened to behead Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

Judge Aileen Cannon gave her confirmatory testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee over Zoom on July 29, 2020.

Judge Aileen Cannon gave her confirmatory testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee over Zoom on July 29, 2020.

Senate Judiciary Committee

Cannon is bilingual and has explored journalism

Few details are available about Cannon’s short career, although some details of her life were shared in a document she filed for the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as her testimony during her confirmation hearing.

Cannon was born in Cali, Colombia, and she and her older sister grew up in Miami, Florida.

She shared on Zoom during her July 29, 2020 confirmation hearing that her mother, Mercedes Cubas, fled Cuba as a child and instilled in her “the blessing that this country is and the importance of ensuring the state of right for generations to come.

She also thanked her grandparents who taught her “always to be grateful for this country and to cherish our constitutional democracy”.

Cannon went to college at Duke University and spent a semester in Spain. She was a reporter for a summer at El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language daily of the Miami Herald. She wrote stories about yoga during pregnancy, Latin artists and flamenco dancing, according to the Senate document she filled out.

Cannon then attended and graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and during that time joined the conservative Federalist Society – an organization to which six Supreme Court justices also belonged.

Cannon wrote that she joined “because I appreciated the diversity of legal perspectives” and that she “found the organization’s discussions of the constitutional separation of powers, the rule of law and the limited role of the judiciary in saying what the law is – not making the law.”

Cannon then served as clerk to Justice Steven Colloton in Iowa, who was one of the justices Trump promised to consider for a Supreme Court vacancy.

For three years, Cannon worked in Washington, DC, with the corporate law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, before returning to Florida to work as Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. There, she pursued narcotics, fraud, firearms and immigration cases, according to her Senate confirmation document.

Cannon got engaged to her husband, Josh Lorence, while vacationing in Athens, Greece, where a giant tortoise briefly interrupted Lorence’s proposal, according to a report about their marriage in The Knot.

They tied the knot when Cannon was 28, in Miami’s eclectic Coconut Grove neighborhood, where they treated their guests to wedding favors of lavender honey soaps. The couple have two children, according to Cannon’s testimony, and they live in Vero Beach, Florida.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis released a survey asking school board members and candidates to share their views on controversial education policies.

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Cannon’s paths cross Florida’s top politicians

Lorence is now an executive at Bobby’s Burger Palace, a chain founded by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, according to a recently deleted LinkedIn profile.

He and Cannon both donated $100 to then-Congressman Ron DeSantis’ campaign for governor in 2018. DeSantis is up for re-election this year and is considered one of the GOP’s top contenders for the 2024 nomination for the White House, especially if Trump does not run.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida approached Cannon in 2019 to fill a vacancy on the bench, according to his nomination questionnaire. Cannon during his confirmation hearing thanked Rubio as well as fellow Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida for their “continuing support.”

“Judge Cannon is a great judge who I am very proud to have enthusiastically supported,” Rubio told Insider through his office when asked about the connection. “She has received strong bipartisan support from both my Judiciary Advisory Committee and the United States Senate. The attacks on her are just the latest example of hypocrisy from leftists and their ombudsmen who believe the only time it’s okay to attack a judge is if that judges the rules against what they want.”

Cannon had been a lawyer for 12 years when Trump appointed her. During her confirmation hearing, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein asked her and other candidates if they had ever had loyalty discussions with Trump, and all said no.

In the case involving Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez, Cannon sentenced the man, Paul Hoeffer, to 18 months in prison when prosecutors had asked for 3.5 years. His defense team asked for clemency because Hoeffer had recently been diagnosed with cancer, though Cannon’s decision fell below minimum federal sentencing guidelines, according to the Palm Beach Post.

In April, Cannon increased a 17.5-year prison term by 6.5 years for a Palm Beach Gardens man who threw a chair and threatened to kill the federal prosecutor, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Cannon generally works from his courtroom in Fort Pierce, Florida. But at the September 1 special hearing, she took the case to the Paul G. Rogers Courthouse in West Palm Beach.

An Insider reporter was present at the hearing, during which security guards told reporters they weren’t allowed to tweet quotes from the hearing and weren’t allowed to record remarks or convey information to anyone outside the courtroom. Federal courts have different laws on these practices — some, like the Palm Beach courtroom — allowing computers, and some not.

Two CNN reporters were kicked out of the courtroom during the hearing in what turned out to be a false tweet accusation. Journalists were allowed into the room towards the end of the hearing.

Initially, Cannon said in her ruling approving the special master that she was focusing on “the appearance of fairness.”

The special master is meant to be an independent arbiter focused on identifying documents that might be protected by solicitor-client and executive privilege.



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