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Election 2000: Gore Lawyers Arguing Before U.S. Supreme Court

Aired December 1, 2000 - 11:19 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: A nice comment from Ed Garcia. We have more coverage now for Mr. Garcia and our other viewers around the country and around the world watching with us what is happening inside the Supreme Court. We want more of your e-mails. So we are going to go ahead and put that address up on the screen one more time. Out e- mail address, very simple:

Any minute now we be will passing those e-mail comments and questions about the procedures on to our roundtable of guests. Those roundtable guests getting ready right now, in Washington, D.C. There is that address one more time: Once again passing those on in just a few moments to our roundtable guests in Washington, D.C.

There is our guests, and we will get back to gentlemen in just a moment.

First, to Roger Cossack, our first reporter to step out of the proceedings today at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Roger, looking at the clock, it looks, if things are on a tight schedule, as they appear to stay at the Supreme Court, about 10 minutes left in these oral arguments, and we would assume that attorneys for Mr. Gore are before the Supreme Court right now.

You heard attorneys for Mr. Bush. Tell us again about what you heard.

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, let me just tell you something that happens in the Supreme Court. When you get up to lecture, there are three lights on the lectern, there is a green light, a white light, and a red light. And the green light means go, and the white light means that there is five minutes left, and the red light means stop.

And everyone that argues before the Supreme Court, they always tell you right before you go on about the lawyer who didn't stop, when the red light went on, and they all walked out after him -- on him when for not quitting. I remember when I did it and I was terrified that was going to happen to me.

But the one exception to that rule is if the justices asked you a question, you can continue on, past that red light, until they are finished asking you a question. So that may mean that this could go, if it is as active with Mr. Tribe as it was with Mr. Olson, that could mean that this could go on for a few minutes more, past that hour and a half level.

Again, just to reiterate, in the part that I saw, which was that initial part, with Ted Olson arguing on behalf of the Bush campaign, there was a great many questions that seemed pointed about whether or not this was a federal question, whether or not the United States Supreme Court, this was the time for United States Supreme Court to be involved in this? Should the United States Supreme Court -- What is standard for the United States Supreme Court to be overruling a state supreme court? Shouldn't all deference be given to state supreme court, and doesn't the statutory scheme set out a scheme in which, if there is a conflict, that Congress resolve the conflict rather than the United States Supreme Court?

I want to reiterate, and underline again, that I only heard one side of the argument, you cannot and should not draw conclusions from how the justices are leaning one way or the other. These are the kinds of questions that should be expected, and that would be expected, and I'm sure Ted Olson did expect.

KAGAN: All right, Roger Cossack, you stand by, don't go anywhere, want to bring in Frank Sesno up from Washington -- Frank.

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: We are hearing from the public, obviously. We have invited you in by e-mail or by phone. We've got Wendy from Dallas on the phone with us now, I think, I hope. Wendy, are you there?


SESNO: Go ahead. What are are your questions or thoughts, briefly?

CALLER: I want to say, thank you to CNN, for its non-biased reporting which helps the average citizen understand what's going on above all the rhetoric. My question is: Is there any way to appeal the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court?

SESNO: Well, there is a question for you, and let's turn to Ken Gross here for just a moment on that, U.S. Supreme Court generally last word as I understand?

KENNETH GROSS, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: I know of no higher authority here. If they do rule, on a statute, of course Congress could actually take up that statute, again, in the future, and change it. If they rule on the Constitution, it would actually require a constitutional amendment to overrule what they did.

SESNO: I want to bring in Bill Schneider here, our political analyst, because actually this raises a very good point, and it is precisely why many look to the Supreme Court, and to this moment, to settle this. It is the Supreme Court that is the supreme word, in a sense, on this document we call the U.S. Constitution.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that is right. The Supreme Court is the only party in this dispute, which is supposed to be above partisanship. I mean, everyone involved in this has a partisan role to play, I mean even the president of the United States could hardly step in and be an impartial referee, he sides with Al Gore, his own chosen vice president and designated successor; former President Bush, his son is in the game. Who can speak for the will of the country?

Well, in this country, the Constitution is sovereign. We don't have a king or queen, and the Supreme Court is the voice of Constitution. So what we are waiting to see is: Is this court going to play a role as an impartial arbiter and referee above the fray? Or is it going to degenerate into some kind of a partisan split, which just reflects the partisanship of the country?

SESNO: Let's assume for just a moment that the Supreme Court does come out with something approaching a unified position, even if not unanimous. Wouldn't we, then, though, still expect the partisans on each side to play it or spin it their own way? It won't be the last word and necessarily the clearest word, will it or will it?

SCHNEIDER: No, the partisans will always spin. They do spin any decision by Supreme Court as saying it was made by conservative justices or those moderate or liberal justices that President Clinton appointed, and they will complain about the court's decision. No court decision is ever accepted as totally without partisanship, but the point, the public's view is that the court is the last word. It is the voice of the Constitution, and it has an authority, it has an authority, that no politician has.

SESNO: Roger Cossack had the first word from the Supreme Court today.

Roger, your thoughts on this?

COSSACK: Well, let me just quote what my wonderful law professor -- constitutional law professor at that wonderful UCLA law school, Professor Carson (ph), Professor Cohen (ph), used to tell me: After the Supreme Court, the only appeal left is to God. And I think that that is pretty much what happened here, once the Supreme Court makes its decision, there is no higher court to go to. The Supreme Court will decide whatever it decides.

Now, if Congress wants to change the law, that is fine, and the Supreme Court can review whatever law it changes, but there will be no higher court to appeal to.

SESNO: All right, let's go, as we have talked about a lot what's going on inside the courtroom, we have also given you some pictures and a sense what's going on outside.

Outside all morning long, Bob Franken, and let's go there now -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I have a traffic advisory for you, Frank. If you want to drive along First Street Southeast in Washington, in front of the Supreme Court, don't bother! It is clogged now with demonstrators. The Rainbow Coalition, Jesse Jackson's group, brought in a large crowd of Gore supporters to match the large number of Bush supporters who are here. They have been sort of friendly, in friendly way, yelling at each other. The police are here -- fairly tense about the whole thing -- but it has been very friendly, very jovial, and that is the scene out here now, as the two sides have come to express their opinions, which is really what this is all about.

SESNO: All right, Bob, and we will be back to you, keeping an eye on those demonstrations, and what the demonstrators have to say.

We should tell you that, by my watch, it is very nearly 11:30 Eastern time. It should be about now that the proceedings inside the courtroom are starting to wind down. And we will be expecting to hear that audiotape, within 10 or 15 minutes, if, if it stays as forecast in the early schedules that we were given by those who were talking to the court, early on, in terms of the logistics of all of this. So very shortly now, then, we should be hearing ourselves the sounds inside that courtroom, and that, too, unprecedented -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Yes, Frank, and that will be fascinating to hear. But before things wrap up, we have another e-mail we want to get, and I think Roger will be able to answer this one.

So, Roger, listen in, and look, if you can. This e-mail coming to us from Diana in Syracuse, New York. The question is: "I know that Governor Bush is represented in court today and Vice President Gore also has his lawyers. Who are the lawyers representing the voters? After all, it is all about the voters and what we have to say, that is not being heard." From Diana Klinger from Syracuse, New York.

Roger, perhaps you can talk about, we have been talking mostly this morning about Gore lawyers, and Bush lawyers, but in addition to those lawyers, aren't there not a lawyer for Katherine Harris, secretary of state, and also for deputy attorney of Florida, as well, there are additional lawyers being heard before the court today?

COSSACK: That is right, but I think in response to the viewer's question of who represents the voters, the legislature represents the voters. And the legislature, at least as of now, is not a party to this lawsuit. The parties of this lawsuit are the secretary of state, the Bush people, and the Gore people, and that is why they have lawyers in the courtroom.

We voters get to express our votes every two years, and you know every four years. But -- but we are not -- per se represented in the courtroom, it is our legislators who represent us.

KAGAN: Roger Cossack, in Washington, thank you very much. Once again, looking at the clock, 28 minutes past the hour. If things stay on schedule, as we understand they are supposed to, about two minutes from completion of those oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court. And the court has promised, as soon as possible, audiotapes of what took place this morning will be release, and we will have those for you, as soon as they are available right here, on CNN.

We'll take a break, and have more coverage right after this.



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