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Donald J. Trump v. United States of America, No. 22-13005 (11th Cir.) Order issued  September 22, 2022 (Not For Publication).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