After Trump’s outrage, Cannon catches new political story

Fort Pierce US District Court Judge Eileen Cannon, right, and the late Miami US District Judge Marcia Cook.

by Dan Christensen,

When Miami federal judge Marcia Cooke died of cancer on January 27, many cried. .

But for at least one of the defendants in distress, former Republican Congressman David Rivera, Cook’s departure from the bench and the reassignment of his case to his controversial colleague Judge Eileen Cannon will be , brings opportunities.

Cannon, a court nominee by President Donald Trump in 2020, said the FBI used thousands of classified government documents seized during a court-authorized search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property last August. Gained national notoriety after she stopped her from doing a review by a special master. Her ruling was subsequently vacated on appeal by three judges who held that she had no jurisdiction to issue such an order.

David Rivera

Last March, Cook ordered Rivera to pay $456,000 in civil penalties. That’s because a Federal Election Commission lawsuit established gross misconduct by his first-term congressman in Miami. This includes “covertly” funding another primary to “cheat voters” and “undermine” Democratic Party Joe Garcia, who may oppose him in the 2012 general election. It also included that he was working on

It is one of the top 15 civil penalties ever imposed for violating federal election laws.

Today, however, Rivera has a motion pending before Judge Cannon seeks to declare the federal election campaign law’s enhanced penalties provision unconstitutionally excessive. [52 USC § 30109 (a)(6)(c)] Cook had punished him for “multiple” violations of the law, including donating thousands of dollars in someone else’s name.

Judicial discretion regarding civil penalties

This clause gives judges discretion in such cases to set civil penalties between 300 and 1,000 percent of the amount involved in the violation.

“In arriving at that number, the Court took into account: (1) Rivera’s bad faith; (2) the harm to the public caused by Rivera’s conduct; (3) Rivera’s ability to pay; (4) The need to demonstrate the deterrent effect of the FEC’s powers and penalties,” FEC attorneys said in court documents opposing Rivera’s motion for relief from Judge Cook’s ruling.

Cannon, a member of the conservative Federalist Society based in Fort Pierce, reconsiders Cook’s decision. Given that, it could raise questions about her ability to handle another politically charged case impartially.

11th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge William Pryor

3-member panel of eleventh The Circuit Court of Appeals, including conservative Chief Justice William Pryor, openly criticized Cannon’s decision in the Trump case to prevent the FBI from using seized documents in its ongoing investigation.

“The law is clear: no rule can be written that allows the subject of a search warrant to thwart a government investigation after the warrant has been executed. Neither approach would constitute a fundamental restructuring of the jurisprudence that limits federal courts’ involvement in criminal investigations, and both would violate fundamental separation of powers limitations,” the panel said. wrote in a unanimous December 1 order.

Here’s a sample of the demeaning headlines that followed. washington post“Outright Rebuke of Judge Eileen Cannon’s Order to Support Trump”. new york times, “Trump’s ruling lifts the judge’s profile and raises legal eyebrows”; slate“Judge Eileen Cannon’s insane reign is over.”

Cannon returns to public stage

Three months later, Cannon is back in public, overseeing another high-profile case with significant implications for federal election law.

Months before Judge Cook’s death, Rivera’s Fort Lauderdale appeals attorney, Thomas Hanker, passed her final judgment for allegedly violating the Eighth Amendment prohibition on excessive fines. filed a motion to change or amend it.

Lawyer Thomas Hanker

Attorneys for the Federal Election Commission disagree. In court documents, they argue that Judge Cook’s “well-founded order” and his $456,000 fine should stand.

“This is actually a big deal,” said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance attorney at Washington, DC law firm Harmon Curran. “Judge Cannon may rule in his favor and leave a gaping hole in the FEC’s enforcement powers.”

Rivera also appealed the fine to the 11th Circuit Court for the same reason, but has asked to stay the appeal pending Judge Cook, now Judge Cannon, who decides on his motion to vacate the judgment. So the ball is in Judge Cannon’s court.

Rivera’s pending criminal case

Developments in Rivera’s pending criminal case may also draw attention to civil enforcement issues. Rivera was arrested at an Atlanta airport on December 5, 2022. After being indicted on November 16 by a Miami federal grand jury on charges of money laundering and representing a foreign government (Venezuela) without registration.

Rivera and co-defendant Esther Nuhfer were released after surrendering their passports and surrendering $200,000 in bonds. But both still have to get permanent attorneys or get arraigned and file petitions for government charges. ordered to appear before him.

Questions may also arise as to how the FEC case against Rivera came to be assigned to Canon. In the event of the death of an incumbent judge, the district’s internal operating procedures state that case reassignment “shall be determined at the discretion of the presiding judge.”

Asked by email about this, Chief Justice Cecilia Altonaga punted to District Court Administrator and Court Clerk Angela Noble.

“My office is responsible for assigning all cases. The case you referenced was reassigned using a ‘blind random assignment’ method. This method randomly assigns cases to district judges within a district, regardless of location. Judge Cannon was randomly assigned this way,” Noble said.

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