The criminal case against President Donald J. Trump for his hoarding of classified documents was arbitrarily assigned to Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a Florida Southern District court official said Saturday.
The chief clerk of the federal court system there, Angela E. Noble, also confirmed that Judge Cannon would continue to oversee the case unless she stepped down.
News of Judge Cannon’s appointment raised eyebrows because of her role in a previous lawsuit brought by Mr. Trump against the FBI’s search of his Mar-a-Lago club and estate in Florida. By issuing a series of favorable rulings for him, Judge Cannon, a Trump appointee, effectively disrupted the investigation until a conservative appeals court ruled that she never had the legitimate legal authority to intervene.
Under district court procedures, new cases are arbitrarily transferred to a judge sitting in the division where the case arose or a neighboring one, even if it is a previous case. Judge Cannon hearing Mr. Trump’s charges raised the question of how that came to be.
Asked by email if normal procedures were followed and Judge Cannon’s order was arbitrary, Ms. Noble wrote, “Normal procedures were followed.”
Mar-a-Lago is in the West Palm Beach Division, between the Fort Lauderdale Division and the Fort Pierce Division, where Judge Cannon sits. The court’s website shows that seven active judges have chambers in those three divisions, as well as three higher-status judges still hearing cases.
Ms. Noble wrote that certain factors increase the likelihood of the case going before Judge Cannon.
First, she said, senior judges are removed from the case-assignment system, or wheel, once they reach their target number of cases for the year. At least one of the senior jurors is ready, she wrote, adding that she is confident the other two are “very likely to achieve their goal.”
In addition, she wrote, one of seven active chambered judges in Fort Lauderdale is now a judge in Miami for assignments. Another is currently not receiving business.
A third active judge, Donald Middlebrooks, takes 50 percent of his criminal cases from the Miami division, she wrote, narrowing his chances. (Judge Middlebrooks ordered Mr. Trump and his lawyers to pay nearly $1 million in penalties this year for filing a frivolous lawsuit against nearly three dozen of his alleged political enemies, including Hillary Clinton.)
Judge Cannon, Mrs. Noble wrote, “takes 50 percent of her cases from West Palm Beach, which increases her chances.”
The clerk clarified another issue: whether Judge Cannon would continue to hear the case. Since news of Judge Cannon’s assignment broke early Friday, observers have speculated that it could be just an initial assignment before being turned over to another judge.
But Ms Noble confirmed that no legal practice would return the case to be assigned to another judge. In short, Judge Cannon’s order is permanent unless she stepped aside.