Bob Franken monitors challenges before federal appeals court
CNN National Correspondent Bob Franken is in Atlanta, reporting on legal challenges before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Two separate cases have been brought before the appeals court by the presidential campaign of Republican George W. Bush aimed at throwing out election results that include manual ballot recounts in Florida.
Q: What are you seeing from protesters at the appeals court and other cases you've been following during this election?
FRANKEN: My experience now from a few courthouses is that the Republicans have decided they want to make sure they are seen making their point -- their point being Bush won the election and Gore should concede. Tuesday morning, there was a group of about 20-25 Republicans chanting. They were good-natured and they made their point.
They've been doing that wherever you go. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Republican and Democratic protesters at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Q: What are the core issues of the cases before the federal appeals court in Atlanta?
FRANKEN: There are actually two cases -- the Miami and Orlando challenges to the recount backed by the Bush campaign. The cases charge that the manual recounts were being conducted in only some counties in Florida while other counties were not getting the same protection. That, if true, could be a violation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which is the equal protection clause guaranteeing all U.S. citizens the same protections under the law.
This argument failed both in Miami and Orlando at the district court level, and then was brought to this appeals court in Atlanta. It, in effect, was put on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court took on the arguments of the actions of the Florida Supreme Court. Now, it's moving its way through the normal procedure.
The only difference is that instead of the appeals court first hearing the cases with a three-judge panel, all 12 judges of the appeals court are hearing it at the same time.
The attorneys for the Republicans say they are pursuing their cases, even though there's a good chance that they are moot, that they are no longer meaningful. The reason they say that is because if they are successful with these cases, they could really undermine the Gore efforts to change the election results of Florida.
Q: Is there a near end to all the legal wrangling?
FRANKEN: It feels like the cases are winding down. Most everything is now coming to the Florida Supreme Court and their timetable could very well determine the outcome of this election. There is a sense that this matter is winding down. We don't know exactly when that could happen, but it is getting close.
Q: How do these cases have any bearing on what is before the Florida Supreme Court?
FRANKEN: The U.S. Constitution trumps any state laws or state constitutions. That's the supremacy clause, saying that the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. If there were to be a ruling here that under federal law, Florida was acting improperly with its extended recount, it could change things very much in Florida and could really mess up the schedules and very tight timetables there. There is the possibility that whatever they find at this court could once again go to the U.S. Supreme Court.