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. Karl

    This is shameful. From the beginning, Coleman knew he lost. For this reason, he attempt to persuade Franklin to give up the race. Now the true counts is out and he lost. Is he man enough to follow his own wisdom? I guess not.

    January 26, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  2. Jackson, Seattle

    Just remember, everyone, Coleman is the man who, on election night, as it appeared he had won, had asked Franken to concede for the good of the state.

    I guess we can now see very very clearly that Coleman doesn't care one iota about the good of the state.

    January 26, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  3. Will18E

    Surprise, a frivolous lawsuit being filed by a republican.

    January 26, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  4. Karl

    I agree with Valerie: Go AWAY Colemen!!!

    January 26, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  5. john mcdaniel

    Coleman, give up. Do what is best for your dignity, your constituents, your district, and your nation. None of us like losing but it is how you lose that is the measure of a man. I am a Republican and would have loved for you to keep your seat, but the voters apparently didn't think you deserved to do so, run again next election cycle and save the money.

    January 26, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  6. Ian Minneapolis, MN

    oh great... minnesota can wait longer without full representation so these guys ego's can grow. I can't stand coleman or frankin...they are failing the people and their civic duties.

    January 26, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  7. Donna

    Shouldnt he just realize with all the recounts, he lost the election, get over it ,and move ON? Come on now.

    January 26, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  8. TrixxMN

    Coleman should leave Minnesota alone. He's got his consultant job all lined up. If he goes away quietly, he'll never have to explain the cheap rental on his DC sublet, or his "free" wardrobe.
    Give Franken a chance. At least 225 more of us wanted him than Coleman.

    January 26, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  9. ParisSailin


    Everyone is so sick of mindless whining like yours. How was the election "stolen" with an impartial Board of Electors reviewing ballots and results in front of both Coleman and Franken representatives and lawyers.

    The Coleman suit is his constitutional effort to make sure the recount was thorough. I don't see him or his spokespeople alleging the election was "stolen" – just mindless parrots like you.

    January 26, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  10. Dems be dopes

    Remember this?

    Sad isn't it. You would think that if Al Gore 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,"

    Double standard?

    January 26, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  11. Chipster

    If Valerie could explain why this election was stolen, simply because of the candidate's profession, I'd like to hear it. The closeness of the count triggered the recount by law. The results of the recount were certified according to the state's law.

    Being comedian (or a professional wrestler) does not disqualify anyone from being a Senator , Governor, or any other elected official. That's just snobbery, plain and simple.

    January 26, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  12. Tania

    What is the background on Coleman? Have read about many questionable dealings - is this so?

    January 26, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  13. Rigorous

    The man has his rights – who could guarantee there was no mistake in the counting in such a narrow margin? Had this been AlGore chances to win over Bush, the colleagues here in the forum would be indeed more patient in the matter

    January 26, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. sammieb51

    Coleman is a reeeaaaalllly sore loser. Didn't they both agree to the conditions of the recount on the front end and now what? – when Coleman doesn't win based on those terms he can't stop crying?

    January 26, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  15. Wynter

    Why is it we are surrounded by delusional fools in politics these days. You have Blagovich trying to save himself via the media outlets instead of the Senate court. And you have Coleman ignoring his own advice to Franken to "concede for the sake of the people".

    It just shows how big and EGO these men have! Cut both of them lose and ban them from public office in shame!

    January 26, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  16. Baze

    Politics are full of sideshows, and this is just another of the many silly acts.

    January 26, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  17. Tom

    Let's face it, if Franken were down by 225 votes the Hollywood-Manhattan cadre would be screaming about a facist government conspiracy hatched by Big Oil and Dick Cheney. In the unlikely event that Coleman prevails, we'll have a howl of righteous indignation from the NY Times and MSNBC that hasn't been heard since Joe the Plumber.

    January 26, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  18. somethings never change

    If they'd elect Franken as a Senator, they deserve only 1/2 the representation of every other state.

    January 26, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  19. Carl Justus

    Another republican that wants the election to go the supreme court where they have 5 people who will vote for anything to help a republican regardless of the facts.
    The vote recount says Franken won and that should be the end of it, but justice today depends on how much money you have and if Coleman has more money than Franken, he will stay as senator regardless of the outcome of the election.

    January 26, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  20. Jim

    I keep hearing echos from the past – Norm "just get over it!"

    January 26, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  21. JB

    I don't see what the big problem is. Everyone wants to be a "winner", and if I was originally declared the winner and then that was changed I would question the process just like Franken did. With the question of 12,000 rejected ballots, I would want to know why they were rejected. It is called due process.

    January 26, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  22. dennisk

    Coleman is a loser in more ways than one.

    January 26, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  23. Charlotte

    Dems be dopes is the one who lacks manhood and is a sniveling whiner. Since when did this have ANYTHING to do with Al Gore, who, by the way, was shown to have won Florida once a proper recount was done. Gore took the high road and let it go, despite what was proven to be a wrong ruling by the Supreme Court. Dems be, you really should get some cohones and learn to review facts before you blather in public. You sound like a real Republican.

    January 26, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  24. WatchPolitix

    Isn't this the guy that said (when he had the initial lead in the ballot count) that if HE was behind in the count HE would concede the election?

    January 26, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  25. Luke Brown

    Norm, you don't own the seat. Let it go.

    Even if you manage to overturn the result of the election and get yourself in there, no one will ever believe you didn't steal it.

    Every day you drag this thing out, the less likely it is that you will ever be elected to anything again.

    January 26, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
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