Trump seeks intervention of SCOTUS in Special Master review, Justice Thomas sets deadline

It seemed obvious from the start that former President Donald Trump’s legal dispute with President Joe Biden’s Justice Department over the controversial Aug. 8 FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago would eventually reach the Supreme Court, and that day has finally come, to an extent.

Trump filed a request with the Supreme Court to address an appeals court ruling with regard to the district court-appointed Special Master review of the seized materials from Mar-a-Lago, and Justice Clarence Thomas set a one-week deadline for the DOJ to file its response to Trump’s request, the Washington Examiner reported.

Thomas sets deadline

Justice Thomas holds jurisdiction over the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had imposed a partial stay on the district court’s order to appoint the Special Master that was narrowly in regard to the review of the roughly 100 documents purportedly marked as classified, out of a total of around 11,000 documents, that had been seized in the FBI raid.

Former President Trump’s attorneys filed on Tuesday the request for the partial stay issued by the 11th Circuit Court panel to be vacated, which would allow the appointed Special Master to review the allegedly classified documents along with the rest of the seized materials to determine if any were privileged or personal property and should not have been seized by the FBI.

Just hours after that request from Trump hit the Supreme Court docket, Justice Thomas ordered the DOJ to submit its response to the application for the stay to be vacated and set a deadline of 5 pm on Tuesday, Oct. 11, for that filing to be made.

Partial stay request

SCOTUSblog reported that District Court Judge Aileen Cannon had approved Trump’s initial request to appoint a Special Master to independently review all of the materials seized by the FBI during its raid of the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

Concurrent with that appointment was an order from Cannon that barred the FBI from continuing to use the seized materials as part of its criminal investigation into Trump, which prompted an appeal to the 11th Circuit by the DOJ.

That appeals court panel partially stayed Judge Cannon’s orders, at least with regard to the purportedly classified documents that were seized and ruled that the DOJ did not have to turn those particular documents over to the Special Master as well as that the DOJ and FBI could continue to use the seized materials in its ongoing investigation.

Trump’s team fires back

In the request filed Tuesday, however, Trump’s attorneys asked the Supreme Court to vacate the 11th Circuit’s partial stay and allow the Special Master to review the purportedly classified documents along with the rest of the seized materials, given that “Any limit on the comprehensive and transparent review of materials seized in the extraordinary raid of a president’s home erodes public confidence in our system of justice” and that they stay “impairs substantially the ongoing, time-sensitive work of the Special Master.”

Further, Trump’s lawyers argued that the 11th Circuit lacked jurisdiction to issue its partial stay due to the fact that Judge Cannon’s order was a procedural move that is not immediately appealable and could only be reviewed once all was said and done.

That said, even if the appeals court did have jurisdiction to immediately review Cannon’s orders, the attorneys asserted that those orders should have been allowed to stand because Trump, by virtue of his prior status as president, had the authority to declassify any and all documents in his possession and that it should be up to the discretion of the district court and Special Master, and not simply declarations from the DOJ, to determine whether those documents had, in fact, been declassified or not.

SCOTUSblog noted that once the DOJ has filed its response to Trump’s request, it will be up to Justice Thomas to decide whether to rule on the matter on his own or, much more likely, refer the matter to the entire court for a vote on whether or not to grant the request of the former president.