Emerging Portrait of Judge in Trump Documents Case: Prepared, Prickly and Slow

A few months ago, a top prosecutor on former President Donald J. Trump’s classified documents case stood up in court and told Judge Aileen M. Cannon that he was concerned about the pace of the proceeding, gingerly expressing his desire to keep the matter “moving along.”

Almost instantly, Judge Cannon got defensive.

“I can assure you that in the background there is a great deal of judicial work going on,” she snapped. “So while it may not appear on the surface that anything is happening, there is a ton of work being done.”

In some sense, Judge Cannon had a point. Much of what judges do unfolds out of sight in the sanctity of their chambers.

But at seven public hearings over more than 10 months, Judge Cannon has left an increasingly detailed record of her decision-making skills and judicial temperament.

The portrait that has emerged so far is that of an industrious but inexperienced and often insecure judge whose reluctance to rule decisively even on minor matters has permitted one of the country’s most important criminal cases to become bogged down in a logjam of unresolved issues.

She rarely issues rulings that explain her thinking in a way that might reveal her legal influences or any guiding philosophy. And that has made the hearings, which have taken place in Federal District Court in Fort Pierce, Fla., all the more important in assessing her management of the case.

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