A federal judge disclosed Friday that former presidential candidate John Edwards has a life-threatening heart condition, a court source confirmed to CNN.
Edwards had sought a delay in his criminal corruption trial, scheduled to begin this month.
Attorneys and the federal judge met in a North Carolina courtroom Friday afternoon for a status hearing regarding the pending trial of Edwards, a former U.S. senator.
Edwards appeared at Friday's hearing. His lawyers had made the motion for a delay under seal, but some of its details were publicly revealed by the judge in the open hearing.
The criminal trial has been delayed until at least March 26, according to the court source. Judge Catherine Eagles said she has been in contact with Edwards' cardiologist, who recommended a postponement, saying Edwards is scheduled to undergo surgery next month.
Edwards has to provide the court with a written medical update by February 28, according to court records.
One legal expert, Marcellus McRae, a trial lawyer and former federal prosecutor, said he doubted that Edwards' illness would influence a jury verdict.
"Edwards's illness may prompt the public, including potential jurors, to view him in a more sympathetic light. However, it is doubtful that this will have any impact on the outcome of his trial," McRae said. "Given the nature of the charges, his physical condition is of no relevance and he will have in theory recovered by the time the case went to trial in March in any event."
Edwards' attorneys asked in December to delay his criminal trial, saying he had an unspecified medical issue.
Edwards is charged with six felony and misdemeanor counts related to donations to and payments from his failed 2008 presidential campaign. He is accused of conspiracy, issuing false statements and violating campaign contribution laws. He denies any wrongdoing.
Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, died of cancer in December 2010. The couple had separated that year, shortly after Edwards admitted that he had fathered a daughter with Rielle Hunter, who was hired to make documentary videos for his campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
March 26 is also when a North Carolina civil trial is scheduled to start in Hunter's invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against Andrew Young, an Edwards aide in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Hunter is suing Young to reclaim materials that she says belong to her, including an alleged sex tape that involves Edwards.
Hunter's lawsuit claims that the tape was made in or about September 2006 and that she worked with a political action committee for Edwards' campaign between about July 2006 and December 2006.