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. Dave G

    With the recount results, it seems obvious that Franken will win. So it now appears Coleman's plan is to delay another democratic senator from being seated for as long as possible.

    January 26, 2009 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  2. Jim from MN

    Well I predict they will be getting letters from me repeatedly demanding that they stop wasting my tax dollars, allow myself and the rest of Minnesota their equal representation in the Senate, and to let it go and accept it. NORM LOST!

    January 26, 2009 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  3. wasabe kid

    It is disgraceful that the world's oldest democracy cannot figure out how to register voters, conduct an election, count the votes accurately, and recount the votes accurately if necessary. It is even more outrageous since the 2000 Florida recount disaster let us know what a crisis this can cause in a close election.

    Our state officials are the negligent parties. This is going to happen over and over until someone addresses the problem. In each case, the eventual loser will believe, sincerely, that he was robbed. The eventual winner will hold office under a cloud of suspicion.

    January 26, 2009 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  4. George Friedman

    Further proof that if a Republican can't win, they don't want anybody to win.

    January 26, 2009 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  5. mac

    Meanwhile, the people of Minnesota are represented by only one senator. I think it is time for some Minnesota citizens to file suit to end this charade and demand their full representation in the senate

    January 26, 2009 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  6. Greg h

    The mess is due to Franken's stunts. He should have accepted his election night loss to Coleman, rather than indulge in a dubious recount strategy.

    The entire selective recount done in Franken's favour was tainted with fraud and dubious when double counting votes,tainted ballots in Franken;s favour. Minnesota's senate election puts a third world country to shame.

    January 26, 2009 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  7. Monique

    Funny isn't it when Mr. COleman was leading how Mr. Franken was supposed to concede for " the good of the state of Minnesota!!" I am completely comfortable with Al Franken filling Paul Wellstone's shoes. Norm Coleman couldn't even fill his slippers on his best day.
    The best man has already won, and all of the crying in court shouldn't change it.

    January 26, 2009 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  8. Anne

    What a sore loser. Just give it up. Gore lost by a smaller margin in Florida's recount and that was solved in a month. Coleman doesn't care about the Democratic process, he only cares about his wounded pride.

    January 26, 2009 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  9. BOH

    Hope it takes 6 years to do this recount. The US Senate can do without these two losers.

    January 26, 2009 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  10. BOH

    Hope it takes 6 years to do this recount. The US Senate can do without these two losers.

    January 26, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  11. Ken in Dallas

    Wasn't Norm always tedious?

    January 26, 2009 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  12. william

    Please no more court appointments like W. You lost!

    January 26, 2009 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  13. dk

    In the beginning wasn't it Coleman who said Franken should step back and conceed because it was better for the electorate to close the issue? Once again Republicans don't practice what they preach. Why am I not shocked by this? Coleman won't stop until he gets a favorable judge and steals the seat. Mark my words!!!

    January 26, 2009 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  14. carol

    What a load of nonsense this is turning into and we wonder why the rest of the world laugh at our politics!!!!!

    January 26, 2009 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  15. Thomas

    Lemme see if I got this straight

    When Coleman thought he was winning, he asked Franken to quit in the best interests of the state

    Now that Coleman things he is losing, the concept of "what is good for the state" does not seem to be that important to him.

    Mr. Coleman, who are you serving? The State or yourself?

    January 26, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  16. Bud

    A coin toss would be just as fair and the people of MN wouldn't be hung out for all this money. UGH! Why can't these guys understand 225 votes out of 3 million is a tie? Money and ego. Throw both bums into the street and start over. the best interest of the citizens of MN should be foremost in their minds, not splitting hairs of egos.

    January 26, 2009 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  17. Fritz

    Coleman said at the outset of the election recount that if he were in the position that he is now that he would step aside for the good of the state. He is not doing that. Are his motives purely power and money for himself? Is he simply a liar? How long does he plan to drag this out?

    January 26, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  18. Richard Bond

    And that is without even considering Motor Voter fraud in which the people who fill out drivers license applications can check off voter registration as well even if they are nbot citizens and it is not screened. The "lead" Franken has could consist tottally of ineligible voters.

    January 26, 2009 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  19. AJ

    They have a very tedious client so the trial is sure to be tedious!!

    January 26, 2009 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  20. Kathy

    A month ago Coleman was going to court to keep all these absentee ballots from being counted. Now he wants all the votes counted. Consistency counts Norm. Do you have a category for registered democrats among your 36 categories? Are those file13 material? Maybe it's time to say goodnight & good luck Al !

    January 26, 2009 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  21. FreeNLovIt

    Look, you lost so GO AWAY and lose graciously the way GORE handled his situation, which was at a GREATER COST than yours.

    January 26, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  22. Illinois 2

    Mr. Coleman needs to step to the background and try again in 6 years....

    January 26, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  23. Michael I Hastings Minnesota

    Coleman is just grasping at straws , if he had said lets make sure all the eligible votes cast are counted instead of saying frankin should conceed I would be supporting him to a point

    at this pace it will be June before we have an idea who will be serving the tax payer

    January 26, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  24. Greg in MN

    What they mean is "it is going to be a very tedious trail because we are GOING TO DO EVERYTHING TO MAKE IT THAT WAY!"

    Norm is just neo-con who wants power. He never cared about anyone but himself.

    Take it from someone who lives in Minnesota...Norm is joke.

    January 26, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  25. john

    Im so sick of cry baby Norm Coleman. They did the recount and he lost! Its over!

    Norm give it up and go home just like your hero george Bush.

    January 26, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
1 2 3 4 5