Carry On, Criminal Investigators! Eleventh Circuit Stays District Court Order Prohibiting Use of Classified Documents Seized from Former President’s Residence Pending Special Master Review


Donald J. Trump v. United States of America, No. 22-13005 (11th Cir.) Order issued  September 22, 2022 (Not For Publication).


In recent weeks, on application by former President Donald J. Trump, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida issued an order appointing a Special Master to assist in reviewing materials seized during an August search of the former president’s residence at Mar-a-Lago.  Pending completion of the Special Master’s review, the court ordered federal investigative officials to refrain from using any of the seized materials bearing classification markings, but specifically noted that classification review could continue.  The trial court denied the United States’ motion to stay that portion of the order that would preclude use of documents with classified markings in any ongoing criminal investigation and that would require submitting the documents with classification marking for review by the Special Master.  

The United States sought interlocutory review in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Eleventh Circuit reviewed the trial court’s order according to principles governing issuance of injunctions, and found that the trial court, which has broad, yet not unbounded discretionary to such relief, erred in granting relief in the absence of evidence of callous disregard for the former president’s interest and in the presence of potential for serious harm to the government’s and the public’s interest if investigation is foreclosed.  The Eleventh Circuit has stayed the preclusion and turnover portions of the trial court’s order.

Trump v. U.S. No. 22-13005 (11th Cir.) Order of September 21, 202

“The Very Objects of the Offense”: DOJ Asks Appellate Court to Stay Trial Court Order Enjoining Investigation Using Materials Seized from Former President’s Residence with Classified Markings


Trump v. United States, No. 22-13005-F (11th Cir.); Trump v. United States, No. 22-81294 (D. Fla.).


The United States seeks immediate appellate intervention in order to stay the order of the U.S. District Court in Florida which appointed a Special Master to review documents and things seized during an August 8, 2022 search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.  The trial court ordered the United States to stop using the documents seized in the government’s ongoing criminal investigation, which includes investigation into whether the former president wrongfully retained national security materials.

The United States submits to the appellate court that the approximately 100 documents bearing ‘Classified’ markings are the very documents the government needs to build its case.   The United States first made this argument to the trial court, which denied relief, but which directed the newly-appointed Special Master to prioritize review of the documents with ‘Classified’ markings.  The court observed that the government had not established any urgency concerning these documents and that the court was not obliged to adopt unquestioningly the position of the United States.

The trial court has outlined a protocol for review of the documents seized which will permit both parties to view the documents, determine which ought to be considered privileged, and submit their recommendations or disagreements to the Special Master.  The Special Master will in turn make recommendations to the trial court, which will, if need be, conduct review de novo.

The former  president as plaintiff is expected to pay for all of the Special Master proceedings, which must be concluded by November 30, 2022.

The newly appointed Special Master, a retired federal judge, has scheduled an initial conference with counsel on September 20th, and has invited submission of agendas not later than September 19th.


Trump v. United States, No. 22-13005-F (11th Cir.) Motion for Partial Stay Pending Appeal, September 16, 2022

Trump v. United States, No. 22-81294-AMC (D. Fla.) Order of Special Master, September 16, 2022

Trump v. United States, No. 22-81294-AMC (D. Fla.) Order Appointing Special Master, September 15, 2022

Trump v. United States, No. 22-81294-AMC (D. Fla.) Order Denying Stay, September 15, 2022

Trump v. United States, No. 22-81294-AMC (D. Fla.) Declaration of Special Master, September 15, 2022

Trump v. United States, No. 22-81294-AMC (D. Fla.) United States’ Reply in Support of Motion for Stay Pending Appeal, September 13, 2022

Trump v. United States, No. 22-81294-AMC (D. Fla.) Parties’ Joint Filing Respecting the Court’s Appointment of a Special Master, September 9, 2022

Trump v. United States, No. 22-81294-AMC (D. Fla.) Donald J. Trump’s Response in Opposition to Motion for Partial Stay Pending Appeal, September 12, 2022

Trump v. United States, No. 22-81294-AMC (D. Fla.) Plaintiff’s Proposed Order of Appointment of Special Master, September 9, 2022

Trump v. United States, No. 22-81294-AMC (D. Fla.) United States’ Proposed Order of Appointment of Special Master, September 9, 2022

Trump v. United States, No. 22-81294-MAC (D. Fla.) United States’ Motion for a Partial Stay Pending Appeal, September 8, 2022

Trump v. United States, No. 22-81294-MAC (D. Fla.) Declaration of Asst. Dir. Counterintelligence, FBI, September 8, 2022

Trump v. United States, No. 22-81294-AMC (D. Fla.) Notice of Appeal, September 8, 2022

Trump v. United States, No. 22-81294-AMC (D. Fla.) Order, September 5, 2022