Sarah May
February 8, 2024
10:20 pm

Jack Smith may seek removal of Judge Aileen Cannon after she denied Smith's effort to heavily redact case documents

There has been no shortage of controversies involving the jurists overseeing the numerous legal battles involving former President Donald Trump, but, as Newsweek reports, special counsel Jack Smith could be moving to secure the removal of federal Judge Aileen Cannon, who is currently presiding over the Mar-a-Lago documents case.

Though supporters of Smith's prosecution of Trump for allegedly illegal retention of classified materials have already raised numerous objections to decisions Cannon has made in the case to date, it is perhaps her most recent ruling that poses the greatest risk that the special counsel will seek her removal altogether.

In what was a blow to Smith, Cannon this week ruled that, in line with a Trump legal team request that was joined by a number of media companies, unredacted versions of documents at issue in the case that the special counsel wished to keep private will indeed be made public, as Law & Crime explains.

According to Cannon, Smith and his team simply did not make a compelling argument in support of maintaining the documents' secrecy.

In her order on the matter, Cannon wrote, “Following an independent review of the Motion and the full record, the Court determines, with limited exceptions as detailed below, that the Special Counsel has not set forth a sufficient factual or legal basis warranting deviation from the strong presumption in favor of public access to the records at issue.”

Cannon made reference to the fact that many of the redactions sought by Smith revolved around what he described as “sealing the identity of potential Government witnesses and their statements” and concerns about “witness safety and intimidation,” yet she was ultimately not persuaded.

“Although substantiated witness safety and intimidation concerns can form a valid basis for overriding the strong presumption in favor of public access, the Special Counsel's sparse and undifferentiated Response fails to provide the Court with the necessary factual basis to justify sealing.”

The judge was similarly unmoved by Smith's contention that revelation of witness identifies and statements in advance of poses a danger of “infecting the testimony of other witnesses or unnecessarily influencing the jury pool.”

Cannon wrote, “Even accepting those rationales for sealing, the Special Counsel's submission offers nothing in the form of concrete factual support for those rationales or otherwise identifies any supporting evidence in the record to justify granting the Special Counsel's broad and unspecified requests on those bases.”

Smith did not walk away with nothing, however, as Cannon did concur with his request for redactions of certain types of “personal identifying information” from the contested documents, saying, “Defendants are therefore to comb the materials carefully and redact email addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, social security numbers, and any home addresses.

Even so, the ruling swifty drew the ire of frequent Cannon critic and former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, who accused the judge of making “rulings that are disturbing.”

“Perhaps we'd view any one of them, on their own, as a judicial aberration. But the pattern of ruling upon ruling that is out of the legal mainstream and results in delay well past the point where this case should have been ready for trial is something that shouldn't be ignored,” Vance wrote. “Judges should not put their fingers on the scales of justice either for or against a defendant or any other party. Here, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the scales are being tipped,” she added.

Liberal Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe echoed Vance's take, saying that it is his hope that this week's order from Cannon will “trigger a motion to remove her” and opining that “[c]ompromising national security is a bridge too far.”

Earlier in the case, Cannon sparked fury among Smith's supporters for granting a delay in the schedule for pre-trial procedures in the case, but whether Tuesday's order will be the final straw that prompts a push for her removal from the case entirely, only time will tell, and that chances of success for such a move are far from certain.

Written By:
Sarah May

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