What to know about Raymond Dearie, the special master reviewing Mar-a-Lago documents

Raymond Dearie was proposed by Trump's legal team to serve as special master.

September 17, 2022, 1:08 PM

Judge Aileen Cannon has appointed an independent arbiter to review documents seized from former President Donald Trump's Florida residence.

Raymond Dearie, a senior district judge for the Eastern District of New York, has been named the "special master" in the case to sift through all of the materials taken by federal agents during the Aug. 8 raid at Mar-a-Lago, including the roughly 100 documents bearing classification markings.

Dearie was one of the two candidates Trump's legal team proposed to serve as special master.

The Department of Justice, which also submitted two names for consideration to Judge Cannon, had deemed Dearie was an adequate choice, writing he and their picks all had "substantial judicial experience."

But the DOJ has said overall that a special master appointment to review executive privilege claims was unnecessary and would delay the government's review, potentially causing "irreparable harm to our national security and intelligence interests."

FBI photograph of redacted documents and classified cover sheets recovered from a container stored in former U.S. president Donald Trump's Florida estate that was included in a U.S. Department of Justice filing Aug. 30, 2022.
U.s. Department Of Justice via Reuters

The DOJ on Friday appealed to the 11th Circuit for a partial stay on Cannon's order, which halted the government's ability to use the classified documents and other materials seized in its ongoing criminal investigation. The DOJ is asking the appeals court to permit it to continue working with the classified records and not disclose them for review by the special master.

Here's what to know about Dearie and the role he'll be playing in the high-profile Trump investigation.

Who is Dearie?

Dearie, 78, started his career in private practice after graduating from St. John's University School of Law in 1969. He then served in the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of New York for six years as chief of the appeals division.

A courtroom sketch shows Judge Raymond Dearie as he listens from the bench in federal court in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015.
Elizabeth Williams via AP, FILE

He was also the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York before being tapped by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 to serve on the federal bench. He was the chief judge of the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York for four years before assuming senior status in 2011.

Dearie also served on the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA court, which considers applications from the government for the collection of electronic surveillance or physical searches.

During his time on the FISA court, Dearie approved of a warrant for the DOJ and FBI to surveil Carter Page -- a former campaign aide for Trump -- during special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation after the 2016 election. The FBI and DOJ's actions to obtain the warrants were heavily criticized by Trump and his Republican allies.

What will he be doing?

Dearie will be reviewing the seized materials from Mar-a-Lago for any personal items and will examine documents for certain types of privileges, namely attorney-client and executive privilege, that Trump's team claims should not be used in the DOJ probe.

Trump's legal team has never asserted executive privilege over any specific documents in any of the court proceedings since the search.

In this Aug. 31, 2022, file photo, former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club is shown in Palm Beach, Fla.
Steve Helber/AP, FILE

Judge Cannon said the special master will prioritize reviewing the classified documents, and requested they submit interim reports and recommendations "as appropriate."

Dearie also had 10 days after the Sept. 15 order to consult with lawyers for both the DOJ and Trump's team and then provide Judge Cannon with a timeline for the review.

The DOJ argued in court the special master wasn't needed because a "filter team" has already completed its review of material possibly covered by attorney-client privilege. The federal agency also rejected Trump's claims of executive privilege -- a tool presidents possess to shield communications from courts or Congress -- given he's no longer in office and said President Joe Biden's decision not to invoke executive privilege supersedes Trump's as a former president.

The judge has urged Dearie to complete his work by Nov. 30 to finish his work, a timeline several weeks longer than the DOJ wanted.

Trump is 100% responsible for "the professional fees and expenses of the Special Master and any professionals, support staff, and expert consultants engaged at the Special Master's request," Cannon ruled.

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