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Federal Court Rejects Bush Appeal to Invalidate Manual Recounts

Aired December 6, 2000 - 2:22 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: While they take up these procedural matters, let's check in with CNN national correspondent Bob Franken who is at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. There's some developments there -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Circuit Court of Appeals, Lou has rejected the request from Republicans to overturn two lower court ruling and in effect to stop the manual recount which, as you recall, for a while was so controversial.

Of course, the manual recount proceeded and this meant that there were several hundred votes ultimately that would in -- in favor of Al Gore. Not enough to turn the state around, but the manual recount had gone on. The Bush lawyers insisted on pursuing their cases before the Circuit Court of Appeals.

All 12 of the judges heard the arguments on that yesterday and have now ruled in favor -- or against the Bush campaign and against the Republicans who are involved in one of the other cases saying that there was no irreparable harm done so there was no reason to overturn the lower court ruling. The bottom line, the manual recounts have not been ruled out of order by this court of appeals.

Now, it is conceivable that there could be an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. That, of course, would be have to be part of the discussion because there are extremely lengthy opinions which will have a discussion of the constitutional questions that were raise, but the ultimate reason that the Bush campaign's petition was turned down is because there was no reason to overturn -- no irreparable harm, no reason to overturn the lower courts -- Lou.

WATERS: So, there's no practical effect to anything going on in Florida by this ruling?

FRANKEN: Not at this particular point. The reason that they had these hearings and continued is just because of the possibility that somewhere down the road there could be some sort of interference with the procedure going down there. The Gore campaign, of course, has continued to fight at every level and the Bush campaign lawyers wanted to make sure that they didn't get some adverse ruling here that could confuse things, if it's possible to confuse things even more.

WATERS: Does that essentially end the federal business vis-a-vis Florida in the 11th Circuit for now?

FRANKEN: Well, for now in the 11th Circuit, but it raises the possibility this could go to the U.S. Supreme Court and of course there is that other matter of the ruling that the Supreme Court sent back to the Florida state Supreme Court the other day. So, no. The Feds, to use an old term, are not out of it yet.

WATERS: OK, CNN's national correspondent Bob Franken at the 11th Circuit. David Cardwell, our election law analyst is down in Tallahassee. What is the effect of this on anything, David?

DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, one thing you can do. The Florida Supreme Court's got the election contest before it. One of the things that's being asked for by the Gore lawyers is that there be a manual count of those 9,000 ballots from Miami-Dade and also the -- that the manual recounts that were not completed be completed.

By the 11th Circuit saying the manual recounts are OK as a matter of federal constitutional law, that gives somewhat of a green light to the Florida Supreme Court if they want to to order those recounts. But surely, that 11th Circuit decision's going to get appealed to U.S. Supreme Court. They've got to keep that case alive pending what happens with the Florida Supreme Court.

Customarily, they would have taken a request for rehearing within the 11th Circuit, but because the entire court heard this case, that's not available. So you go straight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

WATERS: So what you're saying is that the Florida Supreme Court is got one eye over its shoulder for guidance from these federal issues?

CARDWELL: Oh, the justices as well as the judges at the 11th Circuit. I'm sure they're looking at each other, see what's each court is doing. They may even be watching on CNN.

WATERS: So, would you imagine that the United States Supreme Court would take up this matter on an emergency basis again? You know, once again, we're talking about the clock here.

CARDWELL: Right, I think it depends on the Florida Supreme Court ruling. If the Florida Supreme Court does not overturn Judge Sauls and agrees with him and there's no need then for recount, there's no need for the U.S. Supreme Court to act on any emergency basis on -- on whether the recounts are constitutional or not. But should the Florida Supreme Court order a recount, then it does become an emergency and I'm sure there'll be every effort to get it before the Supremes as quickly as possible.

WATERS: Oh, boy. Here we go. David Cardwell down in Tallahassee. We'll call upon you at any moment. Natalie, what's next.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We call upon Patty Davis, who's covering the Gore campaign. She has reaction from this from the appeal's court today here in Atlanta -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Natalie. A quick reaction from the Gore campaign. I just spoke with Doug Hattaway, the spokesman, who said that the Gore campaign is very pleased. Quote: "It clears the path of the Florida Supreme Court to go forward with the manual counts that we are requesting."

So, the Gore campaign obviously happy that this court, this federal court has given the green light to these recounts. Of course, it's focusing almost exclusively now, the Gore campaign says, on the Florida Supreme Court, trying to get a count under way. They want those thousands and thousands of ballots counted because they believe that many of those will go in Vice President Al Gore's favor, and they still are optimistic that could happen. If so, they believe that he still can win Florida and the election -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Patty Davis. Thanks, Patty. We are also hearing reaction from the Bush campaign about this outcome today. We'll get to that right after this.



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