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. Baze

    I see, so the country is in the hands of Stuart Smalley.

    February 5, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  2. worriedmom

    What gives the right to Franken to vote when the process is in Court! We all know how Franken is gonna vote. The People of Minn. need to be represented by whom they elected. Personally put the man who was running against Coleman and Franken up there until things are decided if they want reprensentation. Franken is a joke!!! Harry Reid is behind this I'm sure.

    February 5, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  3. RGB in MN

    Go away Al.
    Your only comedy is your attempt at politics.

    February 5, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  4. Ben - Portland, Or

    I think it speaks volumes about the Republicans, and Coleman specifically, that they'd rather hinder the effectiveness of the entire US senate than concede one seat that they could probably win back in the next cycle. Still, the burden should be on the citizens of Minnesota; they need to pressure the gov. & sec of state to put an end to this fiasco.

    February 5, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  5. Leah DiMarco, Texas

    Franken should be seated immediately, he won the recount – he is the winner!

    February 5, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  6. Steve

    Franken should not be allowed in the Senate chamber until the lawsuit has been resolved, because when that happens, Coleman will be the one seated as the Senator from Minnesota.

    February 5, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  7. Roy

    PLEASE Minnesota...RESOLVE THIS!!! Boy, when your hockey team left town the state moved quicker than this. With the current situation, Franken deserves to be seated and should be as soon as possible.

    February 5, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  8. Typical White Person

    If the fate of the stimulus package hinges on a single vote, then maybe that's a pretty good indication it ought not be law. And if that one vote is garnered by an election that was clearly manipulated (precincts reporting more votes than they have registered voters) then I would say it is a CLEAR indication it ought not be law.

    February 5, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  9. Jason

    Coleman should be embarrassed, he lost to a professional comedian. Just give up already, YOU LOST COLEMAN.

    February 5, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  10. Joe, Chicago IL

    Dems have 58 votes in the Senate, they don't need this clown/comedian yet. He would be a good addition to the congressional circus, but they don't need him.

    February 5, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  11. David

    This is refreshing. The fate of $900 billion dollars is in the hands of a washed up comedian!! I feel much better about the state of the economy now.

    February 5, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  12. Mike in Houston

    Great, the biggest pork bill in US history will be decided by a pig. How appropriate.

    February 5, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  13. Michael

    Franken isn't qualified to make any decisons of the magnitude of the stimulus bill. It is a blessing to the nation that he is on the side lines. And will be a greater blessing if he never becomes a Senator. By the way, he didn't pay all his taxes either until he got caught. Then said it was a mistake and did not understand and blamed his accountant. Sound familiar? Why is it that the Democrats love to vote for tax cheats?

    February 5, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    LOL...as an attorney, I can tell you, I find this one a bit funny. I support Obama and Franken and the sitmulus effort, but c'mon...sometimes you can only go so far before sounding more than a little silly. Fact is, we need GOPers on board and they won't do it no matter what because they want us to suffer and blame Obama for it...it's too bad for them that we're not that stupid and are well aware of who is trying to screw us.

    February 5, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  15. BJ in Nc

    When Coleman asked that a recount not be done, he knew the outcome of the race and that he had lost. Thank goodness the voting process won out. He needs to go on and concede to Franken. Why is he being entertained in this nonsense?

    February 5, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  16. AJ

    If the stimulus package rests with one vote, they need to rework it until it can be passed by a more comfortable margin. TAKE OUT THE PORK!!!

    February 5, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  17. WELCOME TO THE OBAMA SHOW!!!!!!!!!!!!



    February 5, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  18. Ken in Dallas

    Franken will be seated if, and only if, the Minnesota legislature says he will be seated, and that is as it should be.

    February 5, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  19. Mike

    I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!

    I don't and I sure as hell hope he has no say in this matter. Thanks MN for your jokes turned bad, first Jesse "The Body" and now Stuart Smalley. I don't think MN should be allowed to vote anymore!

    February 5, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  20. Court Matter Concludes Before Vote

    Regardless of stimulus bill or any other bill, no politician in Minnesota or elsewhere should be allowed to vote before a final decision is made on all those absentee ballots being recounted. It is nonsense to think the stimulus bill is being stopped for lack of one vote; it is being stopped because congress is trying to put too much surplus junk in it and not limit it to true stimulus items.

    February 5, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  21. Vicki5

    I knew the only reason Coleman was pursuing the lawsuit was to keep Franken out of the office just long enough – he hopes, to keep Fraken from voting on some of the most important issues ever. Coleman is a PATSY. I hope he reaps what he sows.

    February 5, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  22. margaret

    Freaken Al Freaken is an idiot and should never have been able to run for senator. I hope Coleman keeps up the good work of delaying him been confirmed. Sounds like the dems did everything they could, legal or not to get him more votes. Strange how they came from nowhere. There should be a law against that. Just another case of "if they don't get their way they keep fighting until they do"

    February 5, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  23. Dylan from Minneapolis

    This has gone on way too long! We want representation for our state and we want it now!

    I understand that these politicians put all this money and time into these campaigns but at this point Norn Coleman is only thinking about his future political interests. As each day goes by, more and more of us Minnesotans lose our jobs and our state slowly falls apart. Put Franken in now!

    February 5, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  24. Bruce

    It appears that Mr. Franken is overestimating his potential contribution to the senate. As a paid professional clown who has never done any serious public service work, the very thought that he is crucial in the passing of any critical legislation is enough to make me want to laugh harder than I ever did at any of his lame "Saturday Night Live" skits.

    He is a thief who is trying to legitimize a stolen election, much like a football team that tries to snap the football after a questionable call to prevent a play being overturned.

    Franken was a parasite that took advantage of an electoral readjustment, and is similar to many of the Republicans that won in 1980 and 1994 because others were winning (except of course he had to steal votes to get this far).

    He may be seated in the senate, but I don't imagine there is any urgent rush to get him there. If he gets the seat, he will be an insignificant freshman senator without any real committee clout, and in 2014, he will be a former senator, if not sooner.

    What Al really needs is an actual job. The kind where you work.

    February 5, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    Well Mr. Fraken, you can't open the door to litigation, then quickly slam it shut when things don't go your way.

    You're a true hypocrite using fear just like Obama to try and pass the Porkulus Package. You could care less about any economic stimulus, you just want that senate seat. "Senator Al Fraken" sounds absolutely ridiculous.

    February 5, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
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