After a Florida judge asked Justice Department prosecutors and Donald Trump’s lawyers to agree on an arbiter to review the former president’s Mar-a-Lago papers, the two sides found common ground in the form of a semiretired judge from Brooklyn Federal Court.
Judge Raymond Dearie, 78, a widely respected Long Island-born jurist, has taken on local mobsters and once oversaw a court battle in a New York City mayoral race.
Now the low-key local judge, who served as a prosecutor in the 1970s and 1980s and entered semiretirement a decade ago, is taking on his highest profile assignment in the twilight his career.
As the special master in the Trump case, Dearie is tasked with looking through more than 10,000 documents seized by FBI agents last month at Trump’s Palm Beach, Fla., home, to see if any should be shielded by attorney-client privilege or executive privilege.
In the highly politicized case, he will bring an old-school, by-the-books style, according to those who have seen him work.
“I don’t think he’s guided by ideology,” said Alexander Coleman, a labor lawyer who has had several cases in front of Dearie. “I just think he’s guided by what the law requires.”
Sal Albanese, who unsuccessfully sought to convince Dearie to secure a spot for him on a New York City mayoral debate stage in 2017, still found positive words for the judge.
“Obviously, I wasn’t happy with the decision,” said Albanese, a Democrat who ran on a third-party line for mayor after losing in the 2017 mayoral primary. “The fact is that he’s very, very thoughtful. He’s professional. He’s the quintessential veteran judge.”
Gina Parlovecchio, a former prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York, echoed the praise. “He’s very thoughtful, fair-minded,” she said of Dearie.
The Justice Department opposed the creation of the special master role, warning that the insertion of an outside arbiter into the case would infringe on national security interests. But a Trump-appointed Florida judge, Aileen Cannon, acceded to the former president’s request for the review.
Cannon asked both sides to work together to propose special master candidates. Instead, the government and Trump’s attorneys floated their own selections. Trump’s lawyers suggested Dearie.
The Justice Department ultimately also gave a nod to Dearie, who was born in Rockville Center, studied at St. John’s University School of Law in Queens and was nominated to the federal bench in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. (At the time, New York’s Republican senator, Al D’Amato, urged his appointment to the bench.)
Dearie has been given a Nov. 30 deadline to finish his work in the Trump case.
His status as a Republican appointee surely helped him secure the support of Trump’s lawyers. Dearie is also known to work slowly, which perhaps appealed to a Trump team hopeful for delays in the prosecutors’ probe.
But the judge, who spent a spell on the shadowy Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, appears immensely qualified for the case. And his much-admired style may have sold the Justice Department.
“He’s kind of what you imagine a great seasoned judge to be,” said Sean Hecker, a New York trial lawyer who has had multiple cases before Dearie.