June 1st, 2009
06:20 PM ET
14 years ago

Minnesota high court grills Coleman, Franken lawyers

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/13/art.colemanfranken1.gi.jpg caption="Lawyers for both Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken were grilled by the Minnesota state supreme court Monday."](CNN) - Lawyers for both Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken were grilled by the Minnesota state supreme court Monday, in a crucial hearing in the nearly seven month long post-election Senate seat battle between the candidates.

The justices on the state's highest court heard arguments on whether problems counting absentee ballots justify the reversal of a lower state court ruling that declared Franken, the former comedian and progressive radio talk show host, the winner by 312 votes over Coleman, the freshman senator whose term expired at the beginning of the year.

The court focused on claims by the Coleman camp that flaws in the counting over votes are serious enough to prevent Franken from winning the Senate seat. Coleman's asking for some 4,000 rejected absentee ballots to be counted.

The court has two options. They can confirm the lower court ruling that declared Franken the winner, or they can order more ballots to be counted, as Coleman argues. A ruling in favor of Coleman won't put him back in the Senate seat he used to hold, but it would extend his battle.

There's no indication when the justices will rule, but their decision may not bring an end to one of the nation's longest-running election disputes in decades. Even if the court rules against him, Coleman could take his case to the federal courts, or even petition the U.S. Supreme Court.

A Franken victory could persuade the state's governor, a Republican, and the state's secretary of state, a Democrat, to sign a certificate of election, which would allow Franken to take office.

Coleman was ahead after election day on November 4, but he led Franken by just over 200 votes out of the nearly three million cast. That triggered an automatic recount. When that process was completed at the beginning of the year, it indicated that Franken led by a similar number of votes. Then the battle moved to court.

The battle has national implications. If seated, Franken would become the Democrat's 60th vote in the chamber, giving the party a filibuster-proof majority - and denying Republicans the ability to single-handedly block legislation or nomination votes.

Ben Ginsberg, lead counsel for former Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign, was optimistic about the hearing, saying, "It was a very well informed, interested court who asked probing questions." Ginsberg added that, "we feel very good about the arguments."

"We're confident in our case, and in the arguments made by Marc Elias (Franken's attorney) this morning. Now we're just looking forward to the court's decision," said Jess McIntosh, Franken's press secretary.

Coleman and his wife were in court Monday. Franken did not attend.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Coleman wouldn't talk about his legal options if the court rules against him.

Filed under: Al Franken • Norm Coleman
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Marty, Grand Rapids

    I can't believe it takes this long to resolve this. Pathetic.

    June 1, 2009 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  2. Jayden,FL

    Flase Teeth(Coleman) lol Just GIVE UP already you LOST!

    June 1, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  3. DaBird

    Why would anyone vote for the hateful freak Al Franken to begin with?

    June 1, 2009 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  4. Lloyd

    how long ago was the election? It is time for the winner to be seated!!

    June 1, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  5. Curtis in WI

    I listened to the hearing in the radio and was struck by the amateurishness of Coleman's lawyer. He made all sorts of claims but didn't have anything to suppport them when the justices asked and often evaded giving direct answers. It didn't help any that he was combatitve and obnoxious as heck.

    Franken's lawyer didn't answer every question to my satisfaction but he at least came prepared, acted in a professional manner and tried to answer the question. He also seemed to not only know what they were talking about but understand thier prior cases the justices cited in their questioning where Coleman's lawyer seemed to be scrambling during those questions.

    June 1, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  6. Georgia

    coleman needs to get over it fast !!! enough is enough !

    June 1, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  7. brian

    Give it up Coleman, you're embarrassing you're former Senate seat.

    June 1, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  8. I Am The Great And Powerful Rush Of Oz

    Coleman and the party of whiners and losers.

    If Franken was the one filing frivolous appeals, the rethugs would be spitting nails.

    June 1, 2009 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  9. Bill

    Please bring this case to and end> Senator Coleman should just give up its over.

    June 1, 2009 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  10. Dennis

    They are both creepy. Doesn't Minnesota have another choice?

    June 1, 2009 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  11. Denise

    Isn't Coleman pathetic? I bet he looses here, too.What a sad little man he is

    June 1, 2009 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  12. J S Ragman

    If Al Gore had shown the type of grit that Coleman is showing, we probably would not have had to put up with our recent Clown president for eight years.

    June 1, 2009 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  13. bco

    I would expect that these judges are fully aware of Coleman's staunch and shrill opposition to counting these very ballots, back when he was ahead by a few votes.

    So which of these two Colemans should they regard as the deceitful opportunist?

    June 1, 2009 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  14. Illinois 2

    Norm Coleman should have to pay for all the cost of the continued legal fight and just simply give up and try again in 2014....

    June 1, 2009 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  15. xargaw

    Let's hope this will end it. The State Supremes should be able to rule on who their next Senator will be. The Feds have no interest. Don't the GOP always champion states rights?

    June 1, 2009 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  16. Nija

    Coleman is putting his ambition over his country.

    June 1, 2009 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  17. b.kost

    i cant believe this is still going on. coleman should throw in his towel and go out quietly, maybe try again next round. whats the cost to minnesota tax payers for this kind of lunacy? coleman is making himself look like a jerk for draging this as far as he has. props to franken for keeping his cool despite the crying baby coleman has become.

    June 1, 2009 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  18. Gus The Willie

    Why is Coleman still clawing for his senate seat? You lost the election! End of story! Let Franken get to work, and get this country back on track. The Keystone Cops (Republican Party) have done enough damage, just let it go Coleman.

    June 1, 2009 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  19. Richard in California

    How many shouts of "unpatriotic" and "un-American" would Al Franken have received were the tables turned? It's time that Norm Coleman be branded as who he truly is – a selfish unpatriotic self-serving petty man. He is preventing the entire state of Minnesota from full representation in the US Senate.

    June 1, 2009 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
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