Minnesota Supreme Court hears arguments from Franken, Coleman

His state's highest court may soon put Norm Coleman out of his misery -- if he doesn't take his case federal

By Gabriel Winant

Published June 1, 2009 5:01PM (EDT)

Al Franken’s long march to the Senate may be approaching its end. After seven months of recounts and legal duels, almost-unseated former Sen. Norm Coleman’s appeal has reached the Minnesota Supreme Court, where, in oral arguments conducted Monday, things didn’t look great for him.

Election law expert Rick Hasen warns that it’s dangerous to try to guess what a court will do based on the judges' demeanor today. Nonetheless, Hasen writes, “There's no question that Coleman's side got much tougher question than Franken's side, and based upon oral argument I would not be surprised to see a unanimous decision in favor of Franken in a relatively short time frame (within two weeks--maybe sooner).”

It’s not, Hasen adds, that Coleman’s lawyer was worse than Franken’s. It’s that there any number of ways in which his argument – that different counties, by employing different standards to count absentee ballots, violated voters’ rights -- is simply harder to make. Coleman’s side has to get the trial court’s factual finding overturned, something higher courts are usually reluctant to do. Even if he does get the state Supreme Court to agree to some of his arguments in principle, there are a number of ways in which that still might not hand him the election.

But just because the end is near doesn’t mean it’s actually, really, really upon us. So long as there’s somewhere to appeal, it looks like Coleman will do it: As today’s oral arguments were wrapping up, Coleman’s lawyer, Joe Friedberg, began laying the groundwork for a federal suit, or an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

MORE FROM Gabriel Winant

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2008 Elections Al Franken D-minn.