Double Standard Evident in Bias Accusations Against Judge Cannon and Judge Merchan


Judge Aileen Cannon is facing increasing accusations of bias from legal experts who previously praised Judge Juan Merchan, whose rulings favored Democratic prosecutors in the hush money case against former President Donald Trump.

Cannon’s decision to allow hearings on challenges from Trump’s defense in the classified documents case, rather than dismiss them outright, has angered many commentators. They accuse Cannon of favoring Trump, citing her appointment by him.

However, there was less concern about Merchan’s favorable treatment toward Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who charged Trump with 34 felonies related to a hush money arrangement using a novel legal theory. Merchan’s impartiality was questioned due to his donation to President Joe Biden and his daughter’s political work for Democrats.

“Some of Merchan’s rulings were biased, especially the one where the jury didn’t need a unanimous decision on Trump’s alleged misconduct,” said Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor. “Cannon’s conduct is being spun as biased, but it’s clearly not.”

Merchan received positive reviews from legal experts during the New York trial over Trump’s hush money case.

Andrew Weissman, a former top prosecutor, praised Merchan. “He is such a great judge that it’s hard to see the jurors wouldn’t feel the same,” Weissman said on MSNBC. “If you looked up judicial temperament, you’d find Merchan. It was an impeccably fair trial.”

On the other hand, Weissman criticized Cannon harshly. “It’s disgraceful that she isn’t doing her job,” he said. He condemned Cannon’s decision to delay the trial to consider pretrial motions as “incompetence or worse.”

Three left-leaning legal experts praised Merchan for controlling Trump during jury selection. “In Merchan’s courtroom, the principle that no one is above the law is flourishing,” wrote Norm Eisen, Jacob Kovacs-Goodman, and Francois Barrilleaux in an MSNBC opinion piece.

Eisen said Merchan “did a brilliant, fair job” in Trump’s case but called Cannon’s handling of the classified documents case “atrocious.” “Her decisions make you wonder if she’s biased toward Trump,” Eisen said on CNN.

McCarthy blamed special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment, not Cannon’s rulings, for delays. “Smith overcharged the case. A straightforward obstruction case would have avoided the complications of classified information,” McCarthy said. The indictment’s classified information counts have complicated the proceedings.

Smith admitted in May that the FBI did not maintain the order of documents seized from Trump’s home, allowing Trump’s lawyers to challenge the evidence’s integrity. McCarthy noted that if Smith had focused on obstruction, the classified documents’ contents wouldn’t matter.

Critics said Cannon should have swiftly ruled against Trump on various issues instead of considering them, such as whether the special counsel can use testimony from Trump’s former attorney. Cannon has, however, ruled against Trump on some motions.

“Cannon ruled in Smith’s favor on many issues, including refusing to dismiss the indictment on Trump’s grounds. Criticizing her for not setting a trial date is unfair,” McCarthy said. “She set a May 20 trial date, but it was unrealistic due to classified information issues. Instead of setting another date, she made an aggressive schedule to complete pretrial work, which was difficult as Trump had to be present while he was on trial in Manhattan.”

On Friday, Cannon heard arguments on whether Attorney General Merrick Garland lawfully appointed Smith as special counsel. She will address more pretrial arguments, including whether to exclude Trump’s former lawyer’s testimony, during hearings scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

Merchan rejected many challenges from Trump’s team during the hush money trial, barring the defense’s star witness and allowing sexually graphic testimony from Stormy Daniels. His compliance with Smith’s demands has made Cannon a target of criticism.

Ty Cobb, a former Trump White House lawyer turned critic, called Cannon a “petty, partisan prima donna” and accused her of deliberately delaying the classified documents case to help Trump. “She is slow on purpose,” Cobb said on CNN. “Not denying most motions without a hearing is silly.”

Sarah Bedford
Sarah Bedford
Investigations Editor. Sarah is also a Tony Blankley fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Previously, she was a White House reporter for CNN. She was a Robert Novak journalism fellow at the Fund for American Studies and is a graduate of the National Journalism Center fellowship program. Sarah attended George Washington University.

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