January 26th, 2009
07:51 AM ET
8 years ago

Coleman lawyers predict 'very tedious' trial in MN recount

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/06/art.getty.coleman.jpg caption="Proceedings in Coleman' suit start today."]MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) - As former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman's lawsuit contesting the results of a hand recount in Minnesota begins today, his lawyers are predicting a 'very, very tedious proceeding."

The three-judge panel overseeing the suit will convene at 1 pm CT Monday. Coleman is contesting results that gave Democrat Al Franken the edge with 225 votes out of approximately three million ballots.

On a conference call Sunday, Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg said he expects a "very, very tedious" proceeding. Friedberg, a prominent Minnesota lawyer, will present opening arguments in the case.

"It will be very boring," he said. "There's no way I think I can interject any jokes into it."

Ben Ginsberg, a Coleman adviser since the recount who last week was chosen as the legal spokesman and who played a key role for Bush/Cheney in the Florida recount of 2000, admitted that in a "strictly legal sense" the burden falls on them in this case.

"We are, after all, the contestant," Ginsberg said, "but I have to say that we feel little weight on our shoulders as we go forward."

As previously outlined by the judges, the trial - with the exception of Monday - will follow a 9 am to 4:30 pm weekday schedule, with an hour break each day for lunch.

It's possible that the proceedings could result in a second statewide recount - though the likelihood of that remains uncertain.

Coleman's counsel will have to prove before the judges the irregularities and inconsistencies they are alleging. A central argument of theirs revolves around rejected absentee ballots - potentially 12,000 of them - they'd like the court to examine. They contend that 4,500 or more of these could have been rejected in error. During the recount, only about 900 of these improperly rejected absentee ballots were chosen for tabulating. Each ballot they wish to have counted may have to be declared one at a time by what Friedberg called "administrative"-style witnesses on the stand.

Over the weekend Coleman's attorneys announced they would be pushing a separate class action lawsuit on behalf of the 12,000 voters whose absentee ballots were rejected.

Team Coleman also maintains there may have been hundreds of votes accidentally counted twice, and a third part of their case rests on their allegation that inconsistencies in certain precincts may have led to improper vote totals during the recount, which Team Franken denies.

In an interview with CNN Wednesday, Coleman called Franken’s lead “artificial,” and said once the court finishes it's business he anticipates to come out on top. It’s all because, he says, some ballots were counted twice and others never counted at all.

“We have got a good shot at this and so I proceed with that in mind,” he said.

Presenting their motion for summary judgment Friday, Coleman attorney Jim Langdon made a focused push over the issue of the 4,500 ballots they say were improperly rejected. They asked that the court approve their request that all rejected absentees be grouped into at least one of 36 categories they’ve come up with. One category, for example, would be for ballots that were improperly rejected due to a sticker accidentally covering a voter’s signature.

They say a classification method would expedite the trial.

“If you don’t group the rejected absentee ballots into categories, you in fact will have to call each individual voter and each individual election judge under their theory of the case to try and validate a ballot,” Ginsberg told reporters after the day’s proceedings.

The judges offered no indication when a decision on summary judgment requests would come down.

Coleman attorneys also pushed back against Team Franken’s assertions that it’s crucial Minnesota have two senators immediately. Ginsberg attempted to compare Minnesota’s situation of having only one senator to the states of Illinois and New York when both then Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, respectively, were out on the trail campaigning.

“Sen. Obama in the 110th congress missed 46 percent of the votes and Sen. Clinton...missed 31 percent of the votes,” Ginsberg said. “That constitutes a vacancy that somehow Mr. [Marc] Elias and the Franken campaign are not nearly so concerned about.”

When it was mentioned that the difference was that Franken is not sworn in, as those examples were, Ginsberg seemed to acknowledge but said Obama and Clinton “weren’t voting.”

In response, Franken’s lead recount attorney Marc Elias laughed and said, “You would expect nothing more from Mitt Romney’s lawyer. Thankfully Ben [Ginsberg]...is not in the United States Senate and has no danger of being so. The fact is that the Constitution of the United States provides for two senators from every state.”

Franken, meanwhile, is pursuing his own unilateral legal action with the state's Supreme Court. In early February the court will hear arguments that Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, be forced to sign an election certificate so Franken may be seated in the Senate provisionally.

Filed under: Al Franken • Minnesota • Norm Coleman
soundoff (109 Responses)
  1. alvino

    Give it up Norm, you lost.

    January 26, 2009 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  2. No Rebbe

    Would someone put this "yutz" out of his misery? You lost, go home, forget about it.

    January 26, 2009 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  3. Deadfreak for FRANKEN


    Minnesota is a joke.

    Coleman is a pud.

    What a waste of time, energy and money.

    I'm sending some cash to Al to help his legal battle.

    January 26, 2009 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  4. Pat White

    Coleman should just shut up and get on with his life. He lost. Go home. This is how Republicians act , Remember 2000

    January 26, 2009 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  5. BB

    Oh Good Heavens!! MN doesn't want him. Don't waste the court time. If all else fails, charge the state for the cost and do a re-election. Maybe then it will be over.

    This is a big joke. This guy doesn't care about his state, the people, the costs, or anything else but his ego.

    January 26, 2009 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  6. beevee

    What a waste of time and money. The idiot politicians are just power hungry. They don't have their constutuents' wellbeing in mind at all. How long is this farce going to go on.

    January 26, 2009 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  7. go norm!

    we already have too many comedians in the Senate! fight Franken to the end!

    January 26, 2009 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  8. Jon Davis

    Dear Mr. Coleman,

    You lost. Go home.

    January 26, 2009 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  9. Toby in Illinois

    At what point does the legal proceeding become more expensive than another vote? Of course, the lawyers for whichever side is less confident would oppose such a measure anyway.

    January 26, 2009 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  10. risa

    tedious i bet so they can get coleman to win this is a joke they should just have another election i know it is far fect though i try to give some advice

    January 26, 2009 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  11. John

    when they allow the disenfranchised 7000 some absentee votes to be counted, and count the ones for coleman the same way they counted for the other. coleman will win

    January 26, 2009 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  12. James at 46

    When the number of votes tallied exceeds the number of voters who cast a ballot, something is very wrong.

    January 26, 2009 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  13. Linda from Prescott AZ

    Coleman needs to give it up. He lost fair and square.

    January 26, 2009 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  14. Jae

    Coleman is scum. We've had six years of some of the most self-serving senate representation in the nation. And, his Election Day claim that if he were Al Franken, he'd concede and save the taxpayers money, turned out to be another in a long tradition of bald-faced lies.

    January 26, 2009 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  15. Rick from Murfreesboro, TN

    Now who is the crybaby sore loser?

    January 26, 2009 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  16. Stacy from Leesburg VA

    Hasn't it been a very tedious process already?

    January 26, 2009 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  17. Andy J, Upstate NY

    i can't wait for all the liberal progressive nut jobs to claim coleman is trying to steal the election when there are clearly a number of inconsistencies in the recount process.

    if you are so open and tolerant and true protectors of liberty and fair elections, lets have a recount where there are no disputes about more votes than the number of registered voters.

    naturally, since your guy "won" the recount, you will object to this.

    January 26, 2009 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  18. Andy J, Upstate NY

    Franken and the democrats are thugs.

    instead of having an outcome which contains no allegations of improper voting and vote tabulations, Franken would rather force his way into the Senate.

    That way, when he is deemed the loser in the contest, he will say the election was stolen. clearly something is wrong, and a recount needs to happen.

    when the recount happens, maybe franken will be the winner. but allegations of double counting and more votes than voters need to be resolved.


    January 26, 2009 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  19. Adam from Ohio

    Smilin' Norm is pulling out all the stops, isn't he?

    I believe that all votes should be counted–but I also believe that laws exist for a reason. The law provides for the acceptance or rejection of absentee ballots so that improper votes are not counted. What Norm Coleman is now attempting to do is to steal the seat that he has lost.

    Get over it, Norm. And stop wasting time and money.

    January 26, 2009 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  20. No Money

    How is that sore loser never accept their defeit? when he was ahead he was asking for recount to stop. Now he is beaten he wants to get in the high way. Power monger of politicians at it's best.

    January 26, 2009 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  21. Kathy S. Cloughn

    Give it up Norm. The people of Minnesota want to get on with the country's business. Maybe your parttime job can be made fulltime! Let it be!

    January 26, 2009 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  22. Sue

    Funny, wasn't it Coleman who said, when he was in the lead, that if Franken wanted to contest the results, he would be wasting the taxpayers money?

    And NOW his piece of garbage lawyer has the audacity to actually JOKE about how long and tedious this proceeding will be? Long and tedious, obviously, translates into 'very expensive for the taxpayer'.

    It is simply stunning that these people are so completely unable to see their hypocrisy.

    Then again, if he can't even see that his own teeth look completely ridiculous, then how can we expect Coleman to see anything at all.

    January 26, 2009 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  23. Zach K

    Just Give Up. It's Over.
    Franken Won. End of Story.

    January 26, 2009 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  24. Dan

    This is still going on? As if it really makes a difference which of these idiots wins.

    January 26, 2009 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  25. Larry Schlueter

    When will the American public get some intelligence and realize what is happening here. If there is any intelligence, I would expect most would be aware of the illegal things for Franken. Come on America open the eyes.

    January 26, 2009 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
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