Judge in Trump Documents Case Draws Attention for Slow Pace

Two and a half weeks after holding a hearing to pick a trial date in the classified documents case against former President Donald J. Trump, Judge Aileen M. Cannon still has not decided when the proceeding will begin.

Part of the problem is the case itself, which is inherently complex.

But Judge Cannon, who has been on the bench for only four years, has done herself no favors by allowing a logjam of unresolved issues to build up on her docket. That pileup appears to have kept her from reaching a prompt decision on the timing of the case even though the defense and prosecution have both informed her that they believe the trial can start this summer.

While the lack of a trial date is arguably the most important issue pending before her, it is one of several things that Judge Cannon has done, or not done, that have stirred concern about her decision-making.

On Monday night, for instance, she issued a curious order asking Mr. Trump’s lawyers and prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, to send her dueling jury instructions about two of the former president’s defenses in the case. She had already rejected one of them and seemingly rebuffed the other at a hearing last week.

Her interest in jury issues was somewhat strange because it came before she had decided when the trial would start. But it was doubly unusual because it seemed to embrace one of Mr. Trump’s most brazen defenses, leaving open the possibility that she could let the charges go to trial and then move to acquit the former president near the end of the proceeding by declaring that the government had failed to prove its case.

Even a seasoned jurist might have trouble laying out the timeline for a case requiring intricate litigation involving how to handle the classified material Mr. Trump is charged with taking. It would also be a challenge for any judge to adjust that schedule to his busy campaign calendar and his obligations to attend proceedings in his three other criminal cases.

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