The criminal case against President Donald J. Trump over his hoarding of classified documents was randomly assigned to Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a court official for the Southern District of Florida said on Saturday.
The chief clerk of the federal court system there, Angela E. Noble, also confirmed that Judge Cannon would continue to oversee the case unless she recused herself.
The news of Judge Cannon’s assignment raised eyebrows because of her role in an earlier lawsuit filed by Mr. Trump challenging the F.B.I.’s search of his Florida club and estate, Mar-a-Lago. In issuing a series of rulings favorable to him, Judge Cannon, a Trump appointee, effectively disrupted the investigation until a conservative appeals court ruled she never had legitimate legal authority to intervene.
Under the district court’s procedures, new cases are randomly delegated to a judge who sits in the division where the matter arose or a neighboring one, even if it relates to a previous case. That Judge Cannon is handling Mr. Trump’s criminal indictment elicited the question of how that had come to be.
Asked over email whether normal procedures were followed and Judge Cannon’s assignment was random, Ms. Noble wrote: “Normal procedures were followed.”
Mar-a-Lago is in the West Palm Beach division, between the Fort Lauderdale division and the Fort Pierce division, where Judge Cannon sits. The district court’s website shows that seven active judges have chambers in those three divisions, as do three judges on senior status who still hear cases.
Ms. Noble wrote that certain factors increased the chances that the case would land before Judge Cannon.
For one, she said, senior judges are removed from the case assignment system, or wheel, once they fulfill their target caseload from the year. At least one of the senior judges is done, she wrote, adding that she was highly confident that the other two “are very likely at their target,” too.
In addition, she wrote, one of the seven active judges with chambers in Fort Lauderdale is now a Miami judge for the purpose of assignments. Another is not currently receiving cases.
A third active judge, Donald Middlebrooks, draws 50 percent of his criminal cases from the Miami division, she wrote, decreasing his odds. (Judge Middlebrooks this year ordered Mr. Trump and his lawyers to pay nearly a million dollars in sanctions for having filed a frivolous lawsuit against nearly three dozen of his perceived political enemies, including Hillary Clinton.)
Judge Cannon, Ms. Noble wrote, “draws 50 percent of her cases from West Palm Beach, increasing her odds.”
The clerk clarified another matter: whether Judge Cannon would continue to handle the case. Since news of Judge Cannon’s assignment emerged early Friday, observers have speculated that it could only be an initial assignment before being handed to another judge.
But Ms. Noble confirmed that no court practice would return the case to be assigned to another judge. In short, Judge Cannon’s assignment is permanent unless she were to step aside.
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