Third round is coming; how long will it take?

  • Updated: April 13, 2009 - 10:53 PM
DFLer Al Franken has now won two rounds in the long-running U.S. Senate match with Republican Norm Coleman. Franken erased Coleman's 215-vote in the recount, going up by 225 votes, and now has seen his advantage grow to 312 votes after a seven-week trial. However, it's not over 'til it's over; Coleman says he'll appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Q What kind of argument is Coleman making?

A Coleman contends that different standards were used across the state to decide whether absentee ballots should be counted. He says that, during the election trial, the three-judge panel adopted a strict interpretation of law that left out absentee ballots similar to ones that were counted on Election Day. That's not only unfair, he says, it's a violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Q The state Supreme Court is busy -- when are the justices going to be able to take this case?

A Given the serious nature of the business here, the court is expected to set aside its other business and take up the appeal immediately.

Q The trial court says that Franken is entitled to an election certificate. Will he get that now?

A If Coleman appeals, Franken is going to have to wait a bit longer. State law makes it clear that such a certificate, which would almost certainly admit Franken to the Senate chamber, can't be issued until the legal process has ended.

Q So Coleman will appeal. How long will the Supreme Court process take?

A Coleman and some legal experts expect that it will be Memorial Day, if not later, before the high court makes its ruling. According to Coleman, the math is simple: two weeks for his lawyers to write a brief, maybe 10 days for Franken's legal team to draft its brief, then a week for responses. That puts us into May. Then the justices digest the briefs, both sides make oral arguments and the court has to decide what it's going to do and write an opinion. Coleman and Gov. Tim Pawlenty are guessing early to mid-June. Hamline University Prof. David Schultz is a bit more optimistic, but not much.

KEVIN DUCHSCHERE AND PATRICIA LOPEZ

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