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. RD

    Please Norm, keep filing those useless, frivilous lawsuits. It just confirms that you and your party are nothing but a bunch of hypocritical whiners. I hope you spend all your money and a large part of the RNC's in challenging the results.

    January 26, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  2. Film Professor

    I'm reminded of how we democrats were urged to do what was best for the country in the year 2000 when the Presidency was decided by the highly contested vote count in Florida - where even the recount was halted by the Supreme Court.

    Norm Coleman should similarly step aside. No one is going to be satisfied in a contest as close as this one, so he should be a statesman, just like Al Gore was.

    January 26, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  3. Jeff

    Senator Coleman is a hypocrite. First, he asks Senator-elect Franken to waive his legal right to a re-count. Then, when the re-count is conducted and completed, he uses the court to overturn the will of the people.

    This is just another case of Liberals, I mean Republicans using the courts to make law, after the people have spoken.

    January 26, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  4. Barbara Campbell

    Sounds like Coleman is participating in extortion, and deliberating interfering with the operations of the U.S. Senate. Talk about sore losers!

    January 26, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  5. grahame

    Sad isn't it. You would think that if Norm Coleman would try to be a man instead of such a sniveling whiner so he could save face and all credibility until the next go-round. Obviously he does not realize that by prolonging this his chances next time continue to diminish.Power at all costs is self defeating, just as Bush, Chaney and the Republicans realized, if they did, during the last three elections.

    January 26, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  6. Valerie

    go Coleman!!! i hope you are vindicated once and for all from this stolen election to a comedian!!

    January 26, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  7. Rich

    Before you know it, Coleman will want to sue everyone who voted for Franken. He is sue happy. I'm sure he'd sue his own other for unlawful imprisonment for the nine months she carried him.

    January 26, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  8. LisaB

    ...Let it go...

    January 26, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  9. Will-South Dakota

    Take the loss with some dignity.

    January 26, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  10. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    Coleman is wasting tax payer money/

    January 26, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  11. kevin McNamara

    The cColeman camp is careful to omit that

    (1) many votes are procedural and near-unaimous, but the candidates all return for crucial votes, while MN will have only one senator in these important cases, and

    (2) a great deal of casework and negotiation goes on behind the scenes, by phone and blackberry, but MN is at half strength in that respect.

    It seems to me that the Coleman campaign/GOP wants to keep Franken from voting on the stimulus package.

    That's right folks, the GOP would rather send the country into a depression than lose another election!

    January 26, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  12. tmess

    It doesn't have to be tedious if the two sides can be professional.

    For the absentee ballots, what is needed is a copy of the application, a copy of the exterior envelope, and a copy of the voter registration list certified by the election official.

    Each side can determine which ballots they think were wrongfully rejected and have those documents provided to the court. They can be offered as one group of exhibits and then the court can review those documents to decide if they were wrongfully rejected. It may take two or three days for the judges to review them all, but that is not a tedious presentation of evidence.

    January 26, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  13. Sam

    BLAH BLAH BLAH.. Norm Coleman you LOST! Do the right thing for the people of Minn. GO AWAY!!

    January 26, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  14. Terry for Obama

    How come Minnesota never had a run off election, like in Georgia. Is there something limiting it in the Minnesota constitution? A run off could fix this mess. And then the winner, IS THE WINNER!!!!!!!!!!

    January 26, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  15. Sue

    Whatever Mugabe.

    January 26, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  16. Peace.....

    Mr. Coleman you need to put this to rest. Our country doesn't need all of this conflict.

    January 26, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  17. Corey from NC

    I think that Coleman should just get over himself. He lost, Al Franken won. I think he's pulling a Hillary on us!

    January 26, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  18. Burke

    It is interesting that back on November 4th or 5th when the original election results were posted showing a narrow margin of victory for the Coleman camp that Coleman suggested that Franken should somehow kindly bow out and graciously concede the victory to Coleman and not waste time, energy, and money on a recount and was willing at that time to leave the vote totals where they were and seemed to have no regard or interest in the rejected ballots when Coleman was in the lead. Well now the tables have turned and it appears that former Senator Coleman and his camp of attorneys are attempting any, and all measures, at no concern for time, cost, money, or the lack of one half of our Minnesota Senate representation being in Washington to work on the problems our nations faces. I admit our election process has its problems, but they are not all with the system, many I'm sure many would agree with me that they are with the politicians as well. I hope this comes to a timely conclusion that will now result in endless lawsuits that will just clog our judicial system further to its breaking point. A victory can go either way, but the ability and duty to represent ones constituents is diminished by endless bickering over the best results we have. I don't want to disenfranchise anyone, but lets have some perspective, some common sense, and common decency with each other and finalize this thing quickly. I live in the USA, not the Blue USA or the Red USA. And may God bless America, and let us get back to making this USA better.

    January 26, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  19. rob

    Normally I would not say that this much legal action is in the interest of anyone, however, I don't trust Democrats to be honest about these things. The media will look the other way for the Dems so we don't hear the stories constantly about more votes in a district (DEM) than voters etc. etc. etc.

    I hope the judge gives Coleman a fair and speedy hearing on the evidence and can rule quickly either way. If its fair and Coleman loses, so be it, you won't hear a word. If Franken is declared the loser be ready for the chorus of the left of STEALING etc. but lets hear the EVIDENCE. May be something will be exposed.

    January 26, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  20. Maurice from Ontario

    Situations like this one, like the fiasco in Florida in 2004, like the gubernatorial appointment in Illinois....these are all very laughable examples of an inadequate system that needs to get immediate correction. When other countries look at this, they mock America!

    The elections took place in November / 08. We are now almost 3 months later, in a different year, and we don't know who represents citizens from Minnesota? This is nuts! Get over it, Coleman! You lost!

    January 26, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  21. Gordon Shumway

    How backward does a state have to be to count more votes for a precinct then there are registered voters and consider that legitimate, let alone legal? Maybe they truly deserve Al Franken, but does the rest of the US?

    January 26, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  22. Franky

    Minnesota...you don't wanna know what your peeps told us, O.K? You just don't...

    January 26, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  23. gt

    come on albert give it a rest ,,,,,america is watching and seeing how you twist the truth and cheat the voters of MN. ... sorry sturat samlly your a joke to all america

    January 26, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  24. lawro

    The Blago appointment in IL is shameful...The Patterson appointment in NY is confounding...But, they are political appointments (or should I say dissappointments)...As for Franken and Coleman, the people of MN should be ashamed for putting themselves in the position of selecting between a demonstrated do-nothing and a comedic hack. There are better and more worthy citizens in the great state of Minnesota. If they want a knucklehead like Ventura to run their state, ok...but they shouldn't subject the rest of the country to their political schizophrenia.

    January 26, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  25. Bob the Observer

    Wow! By the time this process is over, Franken may have a two million vote lead. There are still cemeteries to register and suddenly discovered ballot boxes to count.

    January 26, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
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