Posted by Brad @ 8:22 pm on March 31st 2009

The Franken-Coleman Ruling

Or rather, the Franken ruling.

The legal battle, at least the main track of it, is winding down, and today the ruling heavily favors Franken.

Democrats are hailing a ruling from a three-judge panel in the long-running Minnesota Senate race, saying it only puts a limited number of ballots in play that will make it difficult for Republican Norm Coleman to overcome the 225-lead held by comedian Al Franken.

“It’s not looking good,” said a GOP staffer close to Coleman.

Details are not yet available, and the Franken campaign is holding a 5:30 p.m. conference call, while Coleman’s lawyers are planning a 6 p.m. conference call. Lawyers for both campaigns are reviewing the documents right now. A spokesman for Coleman could not immediately be reached for comment.

The ruling, released in the past 30 minutes, requires new absentee ballots to be counted in open court.

“It’s good for us,” said a source close to the Franken campaign […]

…a panel of three judges today ordered up to 400 new absentee ballots opened and counted, far fewer than Republican Norm Coleman had sought in his effort to overcome a lead held by DFLer Al Franken.

The ballots appear to include many that Franken had identified as wrongly rejected as well as ballots that Coleman wanted opened. About half come from Hennepin, Ramsey and St. Louis counties, places Franken won by significant margins.

Essentially, it narrows the universe of ballots down to the last 400, coming from districts that Franken won handedly, and which Coleman would need to win about 85% of to be able to win.

It’s unclear if that means that count, which the court directs will have to be done by April 7th, is indeed final final final. There are still some odds and ends out there (the “lost” 133 ballots, alleged double-counted ballots). But most people watching this slog closer than yours truly are taking this as about the final word from the Minnesota legal system, and even the Coleman camp are basically admitting that their last option in Minnesota is appealing to the state Supreme Court on the grounds, as Ambinder puts it, “that Coleman was the victim of unspecified constitutional violations by various election authorites in the state”. That will take about 6 weeks.

After that, the only options left are straight up the United States federal appeals court system, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and then the United States Supreme Court. Not sure on how long that would take before the SCOTUS publicly decides not to hear Coleman’s case. But, it doesn’t sound like Coleman’s going to give up.

Norm Coleman’s lawyers just held a conference call and said what’s probably obvious — that they’ll appeal this ruling. More interesting, Coleman legal spokesmen Ben Ginsberg hinted that the final say from the Minnesota Supreme Court won’t be the final word for them — i.e., that they’ll try to get the federal courts to step in and prevent the state of Minnesota from issuing Franken that certificate of election.

Hardly a surprise. Remember, Sen. Cornyn, the guy who’s essentially bankrolling this show, says he believes that seating a Minnesota senator could take years.

Actually, I think what Cornyn said was that the GOP intended to start World War III if Franken is seated, but why split hairs?

I can hear Adam saying now “Well why shouldn’t he appeal?” Presumably, though, if one cared about the interests of Minnesota, going two years being the least represented state in the Senate would be something to weigh heavily against whatever very very very slim chance you have left of getting the seat yourself. And, of course, Coleman’s a young guy.

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