The special master tasked with reviewing documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home on Monday canceled a scheduled hearing later this week, signaling that his work might be wrapping up.
In a brief order, the special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, canceled a conference with Justice Department attorneys and Mr. Trump’s legal team scheduled for Thursday in Brooklyn.
Judge Dearie said in-person appearances are no longer needed and asked both parties instead to submit paperwork clarifying the categorization of documents that remain in dispute.
The move could be a sign that Judge Dearie is wrapping up his work more quickly than expected and doesn’t see the need for long conferences, when only a handful of the 22,000 pages of materials seized at Mar-a-Lago remain in dispute.
South Florida District Judge Aileen Cannon appointed Judge Dearie in September and gave him until Dec. 16 to determine if any seized documents are protected by executive or attorney-client privilege and thus should remain out of the hands of the Justice Department.
The Justice Department last week asked a federal appeals court to nullify Judge Dearie’s appointment, saying he wasn’t necessary and was slowing their investigation into whether Mr. Trump illegally mishandled sensitive government documents.
The judges on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals appeared skeptical of arguments by Mr. Trump’s legal team that an independent third-party judge was necessary because of the unusual circumstances surrounding the case.
Instead, the three judges — all appointed by Republican presidents — suggested that the appointment of a special master was an “extraordinary” judicial intervention. They questioned whether the decision would create a bad precedent that would allow other targets of criminal investigations to slow down cases by seeking a special master.
It is not clear when the 11th Circuit will issue an opinion in the case.