Luck of the draw: Trump's judge will likely be his appointee Aileen Cannon, who has already handed him victories that had legal experts scratching their heads

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  • Judge Aileen Cannon is likely to preside over the first-ever federal trial of a former president.

  • Trump nominated her to her post in 2020, and she has ruled favorably for him before.

  • If she takes the case she'll be responsible for determining the sentence.

US District Judge Aileen Cannon — who has previously ruled favorably for former President Donald Trump — is likely to preside over the historic, closely scrutinized trial regarding the Department of Justice's first-ever indictment of a former US president.

Cannon, 42, has been assigned to oversee Trump's trial, according to a summons cited by numerous news outlets. Trump nominated Cannon for her role when he was in the White House.

The ex-president is set to appear in court in Miami on Tuesday regarding charges related to classified government documents he hoarded at Mar-a-Lago, his oceanfront estate and private club in Palm Beach, Florida. At that time, a magistrate judge on duty — and not Cannon — is expected to oversee the proceedings. The judge will likely decide whether to set bail, and read the charges against Trump before he enters a plea.

Federal prosecutors are charging Trump with 37 criminal counts, according to the unsealed indictment. Among them are obstruction of justice and false statements. Such charges could carry decades of prison time, and Cannon would be responsible for determining what the sentence would be if a jury determines Trump is guilty.

Cannon likely was assigned the case because she presided over a related matter late last year, Jon Sale, a former Assistant US Attorney in the Southern District of Florida, told Insider.

"There is a preliminary determination that it's related, and if it is related, the rules are that the judge keeps it," Sale said.

In a widely criticized ruling last year, Cannon determined that an independent arbiter known as a special master should review the documents that the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago. The decision was reversed in a scathing opinion by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Cannon can recuse herself from the latest case, though she isn't required to unless she determines it isn't related to the documents matter she heard last year, Sale said.

"Whether or not she will keep it — that's the question everyone in the whole world is asking," Sale said.

If Cannon recuses herself from the case, it would go a "wheel" where another federal judge in the district would have it randomly assigned to them. Trump appointed five out of the 27 judges in the district.

"It's now in Judge Cannon's court to determine whether she keeps it or puts it back on the wheel," said Sale now an attorney at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP.

While the grand jury that brought the indictment met in a Miami federal courtroom, the jurors were from West Palm Beach County, according to the Miami Herald. The reason they shifted locations was because of space requirements related to COVID-19 rules, Sale said.

Further court proceedings — including arguments over whether to dismiss the case before it goes to trial — are likely to be held in a federal court closer to Mar-a-Lago, where the alleged crimes happened. It's unclear if that location would have an additional bearing on the selection if which judge is assigned to the case if Cannon gives it up.

Cannon typically works out of her Fort Pierce, Florida, courtroom. But during the special master hearing on September 1, she took the case from Paul G. Rogers Courthouse in West Palm Beach.

Donald Trump.
Donald Trump.ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

Cannon is bilingual and explored journalism

Cannon is early in her career but has received loads of attention since she heard the special master case last year.

The details of Cannon's life were shared in a document she filled out for the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with her testimony during her confirmation hearing.

Cannon was born in Cali, Colombia, and she and her older sister were raised in Miami, Florida.

She shared from Zoom during her July 29, 2020, confirmation hearing that her mother, Mercedes Cubas, fled Cuba as a child and instilled in her "the blessing that is this country and the importance of securing of the rule of law for generations to come."

She also thanked her grandparents who taught her "always to be thankful for this country and to cherish our constitutional Democracy."

Cannon went to college at Duke University and spent a semester in Spain. She was a journalist for a summer with El Nuevo Herald, the daily Spanish-language sister newspaper to the Miami Herald. She wrote stories about yoga during pregnancy, Latina artists, and flamenco dance, according to the Senate document she filled out.

She graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and during that time she joined the conservative Federalist Society — an organization six Supreme Court justices also belonged to.

Cannon wrote that she joined "because I enjoyed the diversity of legal viewpoints" and that she "found interesting the organization's discussions about the constitutional separation of powers, the rule of law, and the limited role of the judiciary to say what the law is — not to make the law."

Next she clerked for Judge Steven Colloton in Iowa, who was one of the judges Trump had promised to consider for a Supreme Court vacancy.

For three years Cannon worked in Washington, DC, at the corporate law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, before heading back to Florida to work as an assistant US attorney for the Southern District of Florida. There, she prosecuted cases involving narcotics, fraud, firearms, and immigration cases, according to her Senate confirmation document.

Cannon got engaged to her now-husband, Josh Lorence, during a vacation in Athens, Greece, where a giant turtle briefly interrupted Lorence's proposal, according to a feature about their wedding in The Knot.

They were married when Cannon was 28, in Miami's eclectic Coconut Grove neighborhood, where they treated their guests to wedding favors of lavender-honey soaps. The couple has two children, according to Cannon's testimony, and they live in Vero Beach, Florida.

Cannon's paths cross top Florida politicians

Lorence is now an executive at Bobby's Burger Palace, a chain founded by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, according to a LinkedIn profile recently removed.

He and Cannon both gave $100 to then-congressman Ron DeSantis' campaign for governor in 2018. DeSantis is now challenging Trump for the 2024 presidential nomination.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida reached out to Cannon in 2019 about filling a judicial vacancy, according to her nomination questionnaire. Cannon during her confirmation hearing thanked Rubio as well as fellow Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida for their "continued support."

"Judge Cannon is a great judge who I am very proud to have enthusiastically supported," Rubio told Insider through his office when asked about the connection. "She received strong bipartisan support from both my judicial advisory commission and from the US Senate. The attacks against her are just the latest example of hypocrisy from leftists and their media enablers who believe the only time it is acceptable to attack a judge is if that judge rules against what they want."

She had been a lawyer for 12 years when Trump nominated her. During her confirmation hearing, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked her and other nominees whether they'd ever had discussions about loyalty with Trump, and all replied no.

Cannon also ruled in a case involving a man's death threats against then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Rep. Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Cannon gave the man, Paul Hoeffer, an 18-month prison sentence even though prosecutors had asked for 3.5 years. His defense team asked for leniency because Hoeffer had recently received a cancer diagnosis, though Cannon's ruling was lower than minimum federal sentencing guidelines, according to the Palm Beach Post.

In April, Cannon increased a 17.5-year prison sentence by 6.5 years for a Palm Beach Gardens man who hurled a chair and threatened to kill a federal prosecutor, according to the Palm Beach Post.

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