Judge’s Decisions in Documents Case Play Into Trump’s Delay Strategy

The decision by Judge Aileen M. Cannon to avoid picking a date yet for former President Donald J. Trump’s classified documents trial is the latest indication of how her handling of the case has played into Mr. Trump’s own strategy of delaying the proceeding.

It is not impossible that the trial could still take place before Election Day, but the path is exceedingly narrow. And the question of when — or even whether — the charges against Mr. Trump will go before a jury will now largely hinge on how Judge Cannon handles an array of pretrial matters in the next few months, issues that many legal experts have said she could dispense with much more quickly.

Judge Cannon, who was appointed by Mr. Trump in his final days in office, has been on the bench for only four years. She has limited experience overseeing trials of any kind — let alone one involving explosive allegations that a former president and current candidate illegally took highly classified state secrets from the White House after he left office and then obstructed the government’s repeated efforts to retrieve them.

For months now, she has stood in the glare of the spotlight with each of her most minute decisions scrutinized by an often critical gallery of legal scholars and reporters.

Nancy Gertner, a former federal judge who was appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton, said that rookie jurists handling prominent matters deserve some measure of leeway. But she added that Judge Cannon had put herself outside the normal boundaries with her languid pace and her willingness to grant a sober audience to several of Mr. Trump’s “meshuggeneh motions.”

“For a new judge in a big case, she could just be being careful, but the length of time all of this has taken and things she is allowing seems way beyond that,” Judge Gertner said. “She is treating everything the defense has done as if they all raise substantial and important issues, and that’s just not true.”

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