February 5th, 2009
12:45 PM ET
13 years ago

Lawyer: Franken could be deciding factor in stimulus package

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/04/art.frankengrin0204.gi.jpg caption="Lawyers for Al Franken were in court Thursday in Minnesota."]

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) - An attorney for Democrat Senate candidate Al Franken told the Minnesota Supreme Court Thursday that Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie have an "obligation" to sign an election certificate, warning that President Obama's stimulus package could be "lost" without Franken's one vote.

A statewide recount put Franken in the lead over Republican incumbent Norm Coleman in early January, but Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has been flying solo since the Senate convened due to a pending legal battle brought by Coleman.

"The nation's business is going on as we speak," Franken attorney Marc Elias told the panel of justices. "You need no further than read the newspaper to know that it may be that the fate of a stimulus package hinges on one vote in the United States Senate. For want of a vote, a stimulus package may be lost."

Elias said that the pending post-election trial - now nearing the completion of it's second week - could continue "for many more weeks or months."

"We are here in short because the governor and the secretary of state have failed to fill their legal duties under the constitution, under federal law, and under state law," Elias said.

Justice Paul Anderson told Elias he was concerned that, if the court granted a certificate and Franken was seated, Elias would come back to the courts at that point with a "colorful argument," claiming "Minnesota is deprived of jurisdiction" to continue with the current legal battle currently being played out.

Elias first responded saying he "thought" the argument would still remain the same.

"You think or it will?" Anderson replied.

"It will proceed under state law," Elias promised.

Arguing on Coleman's behalf, attorney Jim Langdon said the issue is "straightforward" and that Franken's petition should be denied so that the trial can finish and a winner can be decided.

"Neither the governor nor the secretary of state is empowered to issue a certificate of election while a contest is pending," Langdon argued, while still admitting that the Senate, should it choose on its own merits, can "do as it wishes."

Speaking for Pawlenty and Ritchie, Solicitor General Alan Gilbert maintained what those two men have stated previously, contending it's "inappropriate to issue a certificate of election because Minnesota law clearly does not provide for it."

"In a case of a contest, the certificate may not be issued until the proper court has determined the contest," Gilbert said. "The petitioner [Al Franken], I would say, has come up with some rather creative ways of interpreting that phrase."

"[Minnesota law] could not be more clear," he continued. "It does not provide for provisional certificate - it provides for no certificate. And that's why my clients, the governor of the state of Minnesota and the secretary of state of the state of Minnesota have complied with Minnesota law."

The justices indicated a decision would be "forthcoming."

Filed under: Al Franken • Minnesota Senate race • Norm Coleman
soundoff (78 Responses)
  1. Jimbo - st. louis

    Crossing my fingers that the nutjob goon doesn't get in...

    Go Coleman!!! Franken is panzie.

    February 5, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  2. Charlie in Maine

    Don't give up Al. Look what happened when Al Gore did.

    February 5, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  3. Benton Indianapolis, In

    By the time this is all settled, someone will be up for reelection in 2014.

    February 5, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
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