Why did an appeals court let the Justice Dept. use the Mar-a-Lago documents?

Late Wednesday night, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued an emergency ruling that allows the Department of Justice to continue its unprecedented

investigation into former president Donald Trump’s improper handling of classified documents. The 11th Circuit’s ruling partially overturns a decision by U.S. District

Judge Aileen M. Cannon that appointed a special master — Judge Raymond Dearie — to review the documents that the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago. Her ruling paused the DOJ’s

investigation until Dearie’s work is complete, but the 11th Circuit is now allowing the DOJ to continue its review of the classified documents. The 11th Circuit’s ruling

was issued by three judges — two of whom were Trump appointees. Who were these judges, and how were they chosen? And why did two Trump appointees side with the DOJ and overturn

Cannon’s ruling? Here’s what you need to know about how the U.S. Court of Appeals has reignited the DOJ’s investigation — and how it could have easily gone the other way.

Don’t miss any of TMC’s smart analysis! Sign up for our newsletter. Who heard the DOJ’s appeal and why? The U.S. Courts of Appeals hear cases in randomly selected

three-judge panels. The three judges who heard the DOJ’s appeal were — by chance — two Trump appointees and one appointed by Barack Obama. At the U.S. Court of Appeals for the

11th Circuit, there are 11 active judges, of whom six were appointed by Trump. District judges vary considerably in their ideological outlooks. As we’ve seen with Cannon,

who sided with Trump on most points, which judge you get can dramatically influence the direction of your case.