Norm Coleman asked the state Supreme Court on Wednesday to set a slower timetable than his rival seeks in the next phase of the protracted U.S. Senate race.
Coleman, a Republican, proposed to the court that his appeal of Democrat Al Franken's victory in the recent Senate election trial be argued no sooner than mid-May, two weeks later than Franken suggested on Tuesday.
The Coleman camp said in documents that while it recognizes a need to resolve the case "as expeditiously as possible," the two sides and the court "must be given enough time to fully develop and consider the issues on appeal."
Franken, meanwhile, made his first public appearance since a three-judge panel declared him the election winner by 312 votes and said he was "very confident" he will prevail against Coleman. At an Earth Day event in Minneapolis, Franken also said he expected Gov. Tim Pawlenty "will do the right thing" and certify him the winner if the state Supreme Court rejects Coleman's appeal. "I know the governor will adhere to the law," Franken said.
After Franken emerged from the Senate recount with a 225-vote lead, Coleman filed a lawsuit contesting the result. That trial concluded with the judges' ruling last week, and Coleman appealed to the state Supreme Court, saying in part that more than 4,000 absentee voters had their ballots improperly rejected.
On Wednesday, Coleman's lawyers asked to have until April 30 to file their detailed arguments. They would give Franken 11 days to submit a reply and would file a final response by May 15. At that point, Coleman attorney James Langdon wrote, the court could schedule the oral arguments "at a time convenient to it."
Franken's side had proposed a speedier schedule: The various legal briefs would be filed by May 4, followed shortly after by oral arguments.
What's just right?
Richard Hasen, an election law expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said he found Franken's suggested schedule on the short side and Coleman's a little long.
However, he said, "This has been going on for so long that another week or two is really not all that consequential."
The Coleman schedule likely would push a state Supreme Court decision to June, when the U.S. Supreme Court is wrapping up for the term and heading into a four-month recess.
Supporters of Coleman have urged him to take the fight to the federal courts, if necessary, which would raise the prospect of extending the proceedings for months.
But if the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a ruling and the losing side decided to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, it wouldn't necessarily mean that a resolution would have to wait until the federal court convenes in October.
"The [U.S. Supreme] court can rule on emergency petitions even during recess," said Hasen. He pointed out that the mother of all election lawsuits, Bush v. Gore, was taken by the court and decided during its winter recess in late 2000.
Pawlenty has indicated he might hold off certifying a winner until any federal court process is resolved. But Hasen said he expects the state Supreme Court to address the question in its ruling on Coleman's appeal, which could leave Pawlenty with little wiggle room.
The court could determine the appeal schedule this week.
Ready for Washington
Franken spoke Wednesday to several hundred people at an Earth Day rally at a southeast Minneapolis park.
"I'll be going to Washington soon and will tell my colleagues that Minnesotans are ready to do their share of the work" to protect the environment, he told the crowd.