A special master, typically a retired judge, is appointed in a small number of cases to sift through seized materials and separate out documents that are privileged, or legally protected from authorities.
While a government filter team could adequately go through the materials, a special master is being appointed to “ensure ‘the perception of fairness,'” U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres, an Obama nominee, wrote in the 5-page order.
“In light of the potential First Amendment concerns that may be implicated by the review of the materials seized from petitioners, the court finds that the appointment of a special master will ‘help to protect the public’s confidence in the administration of justice,'” she added.
Retired Judge Barbara Jones, a Clinton nominee, was appointed as special master.
The government was ordered to finish extracting materials from the devices owned by James O’Keefe, Project Veritas’ founder, and two former Project Veritas employees and hand over the materials to Jones to go through.
Jones will set aside any material not responsive to search warrants approved by a different judge last month, which allowed the FBI to raid the residences of O’Keefe, Eric Cochran, and Spencer Meads. She will hand over any materials responsive to the warrants to the filter team, which will then review the documents to determine if any should be withheld from the separate investigative team for reasons such as attorney-client privilege.
Project Veritas lawyers can object to any materials cleared to go to the investigative team and Jones will rule on each objection.
Torres denied another request from petitioners. They had asked the judge to order the government to search for the source of leaked information given to the New York Times related to the raids and the materials seized. She declined, asserting they did not provide a legal basis for their request or allege that the government violated any rule, law, or policy.
FBI agents raided the homes searching for evidence of a conspiracy involving a diary said to belong to President Joe Biden’s daughter Ashley Biden.
Project Veritas lawyers said most of the seized materials were privileged and unrelated to the Ashley Biden diary, emphasizing a need for a special master. The government opposed appointing a special master, arguing a filter team would be adequate.
The ruling came one day after Magistrate Judge Sarah Cave rejected a second attempt to force the unsealing of records that convinced the judge to approve the warrants.