Deep Dive into Judge Aileen Cannon

Photograph Source: Southern District of Florida – Public Domain

Judge Aileen Mercedes Cannon, born in Colombia of a Cuban mother and American father, was raised in Miami.

In this column, I take a deeper look into two different areas of Judge Cannon’s life: first, her husband’s purchase of property in 2020 shortly after her nomination and before her confirmation, and second, her recent paperless minute orders in the Mar-a-Lago case. The juxtaposition of these two unrelated activities is suggestive and possibly revealing.

Cannon’s Home

According to public records,* Judge Aileen Cannon’s husband, Joshua Lorence, purchased their home in Vero Beach, Florida on August 24, 2020 for $750,000, only three months after Trump nominated her and one month after her confirmation hearing, but three months before she was confirmed.

*(Note that for public and property records, I provide the general links only, not specific to Cannon, Lorence, or their addresses.)

That the couple purchased this home at that moment, after her nomination by Trump but before she was confirmed to the bench, suggests she was pretty confident, if not assured, that she was going to be confirmed. You don’t purchase a home worth three-quarters of a million dollars without knowing you can afford it (and without showing a bank you can).

Public records do not show that Cannon herself owns or purchased the house in Vero Beach, which according to property records is a 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house with 3671 heated square footage. Neither owner information nor purchase price are visible for this home on the property records site.

She had a mortgage of $157,500 on previously owned property in Michigan and currently appears to co-own an apartment in Key Largo with a 2022 assessed value of $471,058. (Public records and property records both show a co-owner but with different names.)

Addresses for both her and her husband reflect the locations where they lived and held their jobs, including Arlington, VA (outside D.C.) and addresses in Florida and Michigan. From 2009 to 2012, Cannon was an associate at the Washington, D.C. office of the corporate law firm Gibson Dunn. From 2013 to 2020, she served as an assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of Florida. (Current salary for Florida federal prosecutors is about $67k/year.)

Lorence was a restaurant manager in or around Miami when they married (2008). A June 2023 article states that Lorence has been the Chief Operating Officer for Bobby’s Burgers since 2015, based in Charlotte, N.C. A workplace transparency website states that the 2023 “estimated total pay for a Chief Restaurant Operations Officer is $92,206 per year in the United States area, with an average salary of $73,797 per year.”

District Court judges earn $232,600 per year, according to the U.S. Courts website.

Clearly, Cannon’s husband could not have purchased the Vero Beach house by himself. Just as clearly, it was purchased with the knowledge or assurance that Cannon’s position as district court judge would be confirmed. In fact, it is doubtful that the couple could get a mortgage (or even a mortgage guarantee) without showing proof of her income, not in expectation but as actual fact.

Cannon’s Confirmation

Cannon’s was nominated by Trump in June 2020, her confirmation hearing was in July 2020, her husband purchased their new home in August 2020, and Cannon was confirmed in November 2020.

According to Wikipedia (citing to while Cannon barely “drew the American Bar Association’s middle rating of ‘qualified’,” she was proposed for the bench by Florida Senator Marco Rubo and nominated by Trump in June 2020. The American Bar Association requires at least 12 years of law practice as one of their approval criteria, and Cannon just met that standard. During her confirmation hearing, the senators “took it easy” on her.

Given her bare minimum experience in law practice and her relative youth, it is perhaps surprising that the Senate did not scrutinize her more carefully. Though her membership in the Federalist Society explains Republican support for her, it doesn’t explain why Democrats gave her a pass so readily. But her fast and easy confirmation combined with the fact that her husband purchased their home before she was confirmed suggests that she not only had a promised pass but had paper proof of it.

Cannon’s Paperless Minute Orders

Taking a look at her recent tactics in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case against Trump, trial attorney Ben Meiselas of Meidastouch Network News notes that Cannon is “using paperless orders to cause massive delay in the federal criminal prosecution of Donald Trump in the Southern District of Florida.”

Meiselas says:

“It may not look like there is a massive impact taking place but it is. She is doing this precisely because she learned all the wrong lessons from 2022 when she was reversed by the 11th Circuit of Appeals in another case involving Donald Trump. *** She was overruled twice in scathing, scathing orders . . . And now what [she] is doing [in the Mar-a-Lago case] is she’s not actually issuing orders; instead she’s doing these piecemeal paperless orders . . .”

These orders are essentially scheduling orders. Changes to trial scheduling can’t be considered misconduct, according to one legal expert, who explains: “Some sort of interlocutory appeal? The [Florida] 11th Circuit isn’t going to hear an appeal of a scheduling order.”

But one of these paperless orders severely chastises Jack Smith’s team (and threatens to strike his future “non-compliant notices or unauthorized filings”) for having brought to her attention misconduct (and attempted manipulation) on the part of Trump’s legal team, simply because the word count went slightly over the word limit! (Here, starting at about 1:42 minutes.) Meiselas says that she basically responds with “I’m more upset with you [Jack Smith] for filing the notice than I am at them for lying to me.” Meiselas (quite appropriately) exclaims: “Think about the import of that!”

At the same time, Cannon issued another paperless order — “pending order to follow” — that let Trump off the hook for a filing deadline, putting off all deadlines (again halting the case, as she has repeatedly done) while she ponders whether to grant Trump’s motion to delay the trial. (Here, starting at 5:50 minutes.)

Meiselas points out that if Cannon issues an actual order moving her current May 2024 trial date, the GA case can then grab that slot and go ahead with the RICO case. By not actually issuing an order — but simply doing paperless scheduling orders on her docket — Cannon stops Fani Willis from being able to go ahead with Trump’s RICO case.

Meiselas (and his co-anchor Michael Popok) has previously pointed out that judges in different jurisdictions often consult with each other over trial dates when there are cases involving same defendants. It is clear that the judges in the GA and D.C. cases are aware of each other’s schedules. Cannon has obviously not been consulted, so she is left to guess what these other judges might do and is trying to out-maneuver them.

Cannon does not want the other cases to go forward before hers (and she’d like to stop hers, too). She wants to assist Trump by delaying his trials as long as possible, for reasons we can only guess. In her view, apparently, these trials are what Trump says they are: election interference. How do we know that Cannon views it this way? Because in her 2022 decision to take “equitable jurisdiction” to stop Smith’s investigation and appoint a special master, which was reversed by the 11th Circuit, she basically said as much.

In that decision, Cannon provided the following quote in support of Trump:

“[A] wrongful indictment is no laughing matter; it often works a grievous, irreparable injury to the person indicted. The stigma cannot be easily erased. In the public mind, the blot on a man’s escutcheon, resulting from such a public accusation of wrongdoing, is seldom wiped out by a subsequent judgment of not guilty. Frequently, the public remembers the accusation, and still suspects guilt, even after an acquittal.” (Citing from the controlling case of Richey v. Smith, 515 F.2d 1239,1244, n. 10 (5th Cir. 1975).)

Significantly, Cannon added that: “As a function of Plaintiff’s former position as President of the United States, the stigma associated with the subject seizure is in a league of its own. A future indictment, based to any degree on property that ought to be returned, would result in reputational harm of a decidedly different order of magnitude.” (Order, September 5, 2022, page 10.)

Citing “considerations of the public interests involved,” Cannon wrote that she took into account:

“the undeniably unprecedented nature of the search of a former President’s residence, [his] inability to examine the seized materials in formulating his arguments to date; [his] stated reliance on the customary cooperation between former and incumbent administrations regarding the ownership and exchange of documents; the power imbalance between the parties; the importance of maintaining institutional trust; and the interest in ensuring the integrity of an orderly process amidst swirling allegations of bias and media leaks.” (Page 11.)

It is clear from these passages that Cannon believes that Trump’s legal situation is unique and that he deserves special (“equitable”) treatment as a former president. At the time of writing that decision, she felt she was balancing “public interests” while protecting Trump’s rights.

Given her current practice in the Mar-a-Lago case of issuing paperless scheduling orders instead of putting into writing a proper decision on any point, thus avoiding being appealed and reversed, it is clear that Cannon disagrees with the 11th Circuit’s reversal of her assertion of equitable jurisdiction and appointment of a special master in 2022. In other words, she still thinks she was right and the 11th Circuit was wrong. She is not going to allow the 11th Circuit to tell her what to do; she is going to do what SHE thinks is right.

This kind of arrogance coming from a relatively young, inexperienced judge is in itself alarming. But the point I made earlier about her husband’s purchase of property before her confirmation is that her arrogance does not arise solely from her own hubris but is connected to some unrevealed affiliations — either via the Federalist Society or Republicans in power.

Clearly, Cannon feels sympathy for Trump but that in itself does not constitute judicial bias. It is her job to protect the rights of defendants in her court and in her view, his rights are in danger of being trampled by the DOJ. This explains, in part, her hostility towards Jack Smith.

But if there are others involved in her decision-making who have hidden agendas, that could impact her impartiality. The timing of the purchase of her Vero Beach home in relation to her confirmation raises questions that need to be further investigated.