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Judges Rule Against Democrats in Absentee Ballot Cases; Immediate Appeal is FiledAired December 8, 2000 - 2:10 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, though, as the political and legal wars rage in Florida, Vice President Al Gore is out of his White House office today. How much work he's getting done as vice president: Hmm, let's ask Patty Davis about that -- or whether they're standing by watching television up there as well -- Patty.
PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually he's done working now at his White House office. He is -- we are told -- headed back here to the official residence here in Washington, just about a 20-30- minute drive from downtown Washington. He is, of course closely watching all of the developments in Florida: this Seminole County and Martin County case that the Gore campaign has said -- taking pains to point out that they are not part of either of these cases.
Certainly, the vice president could benefit from positive rulings in both of these cases going his way. However, the really big case that they are watching, that they are still very optimistic about, is this contest action: the appeal of Gore's contest action in the Florida Supreme Court. The Gore campaign had said that the Florida Supreme Court will be the final decisive factor in this case, in terms of the contest, that it will not go ahead and appeal that to the U.S. Supreme Court.
So much more focus being placed on that case than the Seminole and Martin cases, although those county cases could certainly help him if they go in his favor -- Natalie.
ALLEN: OK, Patty Davis, we wait and talk with you in just a moment, once we learn the outcome -- again, expected in like about four minutes, if they're on schedule this time. This, of course, has been delayed from 12:30 today. But we expect it to happen in a matter of minutes.
Texas Governor George Bush working at his office in the state capital, where, earlier today, he expressed optimism.
The latest now from CNN's Jeanne Meserve in Austin -- Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, the Bush campaign well aware of the implications and the importance of these court decisions down in Florida: Bush lawyers had already said that they would appeal the Seminole and Martin County absentee-ballot cases if those should go against them. But today, Governor Bush was asked about the Florida Supreme Court case, concerning the ballots in Dade and Palm Beach counties.
He said if that decision goes against him, he will appeal that. He hopes it doesn't come to that, but he would appeal if that's necessary. He was also asked: If all three of these cases go against one candidate or the other, should the loser concede? Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Each candidate is going to have to decide to make the decision that that's best for the country. And the only thing I can tell you is how I think. You are going to have to ask the vice president how he thinks, depending on the outcome of the courts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MESERVE: Although Governor Bush did speak with Secretary James Baker, who is his point man on the ground in Florida today about the legal maneuvering, most of his attention once again being devoted to transition. At the governor's mansion today, he met with designated White House chief of staff Andy Card -- also with Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, two close campaign aides, were also expected to play a part in the White House staff.
Bush said he was having some difficulty conducting formal interviews for Cabinet positions while the election remains unsettled. But he expressed the hope that we're reaching a point of finality -- Natalie, back to you.
ALLEN: And, Jeanne, we know that yesterday, David Boies got a call from Al Gore wishing him luck just before he went before the state Supreme Court. Has George W. Bush been that connected with his lawyers in Florida?
MESERVE: Natalie, I don't know the answer to that question. We do know that he has a conference call every day with Secretary Baker. We do know, at one point, he had called his lawyers down in Florida to congratulate about one of their court performances. But I don't know if he's spoken to anyone in the last 24 hours -- Natalie.
ALLEN: All right, Jeanne Meserve, thanks, from Austin -- now over to Stephen.
FRAZIER: Natalie, let's take one more look at the scene inside the Leon County Circuit courthouse. There are the journalists hanging around for just a few minutes, hoping for an announcement. You can't see him, because he's near that crowd, but our Gary Tuchman is working. Rather than standing around, as these guys are, he's running around confronting every principle to this case he can encounter, including Judge Terry Lewis, with whom he had a conversation a moment ago. Let's find out if he learned anything since then.
Gary, are you with us?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Stephen, we are with you. We're with another crowd on the third floor of same courthouse building where right now attorneys from all sides are meeting. And they are finding out, as we speak, the decisions in both these cases. We expect them at any minute to come outside these doors. And we do expect to find out very soon the decisions in the Seminole County case and the Martin County Case. But as we speak to you, they are now learning the decisions themselves. They have been given that courtesy to find out before the rest of the world finds out -- Stephen, back to you.
FRAZIER: Now, Gary, that's a courtesy for them. Are they bound to keep that that information quiet or could they share it with you, for example, before anyone approaches the lectern upstairs?
TUCHMAN: Stephen, not if we can help it, we'll find it out before they get to the lectern. I can tell you that much. I'm absolutely positive there will be no promise made to anybody inside that room that they can't tell people when they come out. Because there are just so many of them, it would impossible to keep that promise. So I have a pretty good idea that we will have a good idea before they have their little news conference.
FRAZIER: Good for you. Now, you noticed that Judge Lewis looked awfully relaxed when you had a conversation with him a couple of minutes ago. How about all these other principals to the case?
TUCHMAN: They are not so relaxed. As I said earlier, I think it's notable a lot of them have been very confident during this whole procedure. And that's what lawyers usually do. But as they have been walking in this office, they all -- they're very subdued. There is a lot of pressure. This is huge. It's historical. And the losing side of this, they're going to feel awfully bad. And that's why they are nervous.
FRAZIER: And have you had any glimpses of Judge Clark, the judge who asked for a little bit of extra time to work on her ruling?
TUCHMAN: No. Judge Clark, we haven't seen all day. She has been working very hard, we understand. Judge Lewis, we kind of accidentally ran into. But we haven't seen him since then. They are both now out of sight at this point.
FRAZIER: And when you see these teams of lawyers moving about, Gary, are they the whole teams -- which include dozens and dozens of lawyers -- or just the heavy-hitters who have been actually making the arguments?
TUCHMAN: Right now, the whole teams are in there. Everyone who wants -- everyone who is allowed in that office is going in. So there is at least 20 attorneys. We have attorneys from the Bush side. We have attorneys from Seminole County, from Martin County, from the Florida Republican Party, from the secretary of state's office representing absentee voters. The only attorneys who are not in this room are attorneys for Al Gore, because he was not an official party in either of these cases.
They were Democratic plaintiffs, not the Democratic Party.
FRAZIER: Now, you may have heard David Cardwell saying earlier that it was his belief that appeals filing had already been typed up and signed and were ready to go. They actually may be in the hands of some of those attorneys that have been filing past you. Any sign of those?
TUCHMAN: You can rest assured they have all their appellant papers ready. And that appeal will be filed as quick as a road runner can run across a field. It will be very fast.
FRAZIER: And how far do they have to go, Gary? What do they have to do?
TUCHMAN: They just have to down one floor in this courthouse. And it will take them probably less than two minutes to get there from this office where they are having the meeting right now.
FRAZIER: All right. Well, standby on the phone, Gary, if you would. That is wonderful insight. And we're grateful for it.
But let's go out along to route to those other filings and talk to Mark Potter, who is keeping an eye on things outside -- Mark.
MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Stephen, one thing that I can add to what the lawyers are saying is that not only are they -- were they nervous going in to hear the ruling, but they've also said that they're shell-shocked by this schedule. Lawyers are not used to working at this pace. The old line, "The wheels of justice turn slowly" does not apply here at the Leon County courthouse at this point in our history.
These lawyers have been going around-the-clock from courtroom to courtroom, judge to judge, courthouse to courthouse, all with the weight of history very strongly on their shoulders. And they're exhausted. And they've talked about that. And they've even joked about how quickly they have had to do everything. They used to complain that the other side didn't get them their paperwork within the amount of days that they want to have it. Now everything is boiled down to minutes. And so they are walking around with a bit of glazed look in their eyes, knowing that, as tough as it has been so far, it won't stop, because of the appeals that are inevitable in this case.
So it's been tough. One day, the trial went from the case -- this courthouse was operating from 7:00 in the morning until 12:30 the next morning, as they tried to get both of these cases done in as short amount of time as possible. Envision this: two complete trials, dealing with historical material and complex facts completed in two days. And that's almost unheard of. And these lawyers are feeling the weight of that quite clearly -- back to you.
ALLEN: And, Mark, many of these lawyers aren't even from Florida. Where have they been working out of? How hard have the logistics been for them in getting the work done, and all the paperwork they have to do? POTTER: Well, for those of us not who are not from Tallahassee, we can feel for them. It's kind of the same. They also -- they're working out of offices, either that they have hired or that they are associated with here. And this has been a grind. They are eating bad food. And they are working hard. They are burning the midnight oil. And this is -- this is not an easy thing.
And, if you can imagine, I'm sitting here talking to you. And that's a very pleasant experience. They have to talk to the Supreme Court judges. And that's tough. And they've had to do it more than once. And then they go to judges here at Leon County -- at the Leon County courthouse. It's not an easy thing. And those who are getting paid are earning their money.
FRAZIER: Mark, thank you for those insights. Hang around for a minute, if you would, please. Let's turn to Gary.
Gary Tuchman, are you learning anything inside?
TUCHMAN: Stephen, the decision is about to be announced. What they have done, they told all the attorneys to stay put inside the office, so the attorneys don't divulge what happened. The spokesmen for the court are now going down to the area where they said they would have a news conference. So they had a little meeting to discuss how to do this so people wouldn't get the word outside the court administrator's office before the word is officially announced.
So all the attorneys, probably 20 of them, are just sitting tight right now in an office while court spokesman go down to the site to announce the decision. And it should be any minute.
FRAZIER: That's what happens when they know Gary Tuchman's waiting outside the door. They pulled an end run around you, Gary.
TUCHMAN: It's not just us, anymore, Stephen. We were the only ones here earlier when it supposed to happen earlier this afternoon. But now kind of everyone is up here. So, I think they made a decision to do it this way.
ALLEN: So, the court spokesman on what floor and he's got to get to what floor now in this picture we're seeing here, Gary?
TUCHMAN: The court spokesman's on the third floor. They're now walking down a winding stairwell to the first floor in order to make their decision. Hold on one second, guys.
FRAZIER: While Gary's investigating we can let you know that one of the comments made by the head of a legal team was that he was wasn't even aware just how many attorneys were on these cases. There are so many of them down there right now they haven't figured how they're going to bill or whether all of them will be paid. Some of them will are going to work apparently pro bono, but for an awful lot of lawyers this is a very important time. Almost too many of them to count. Almost too many of them to figure in right now. ALLEN: And if you've been noticing in the shot we have here, that's Bill Hemmer standing there with the cell phone to his ear and told that he can talk with his now.
Bill, we see you in the wide shot. Any sign of the spokesman coming there yet?
BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Natalie. I can tell you that we anticipate any moment Terre Cass and the others should be entering the room here. I don't know which camera you're talking about because there's about 40 of them lined up here in front of us. The room is extremely crowded. And certainly this is highly, highly anticipated ruling. Here come the administrators into the room right now. And as they move to the microphone I shall be quiet and listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... Terre Cass, administrator for the 2nd Judicial Circuit.
TERRE CASS, LEON COUNTY COURT ADMINISTRATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We have a ruling in both the Seminole County case and the Martin County case. Based upon the evidence presented and in accord with the controlling legal precedent of the Florida Supreme Court, the trial courts in both the Seminole County case and the Martin County case have determined that despite irregularities in the request for absentee ballots, neither the sanctity of the ballots nor the integrity of the election has been compromised. And that the election results...
CASS: ... and that the election results reflect a full and fair expression of the will of the voters. Accordingly, all relief requested by the plaintiffs has been denied and judgment entered for the defendant. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.
ALLEN: There you have it, the same outcome in Seminole and Martin counties, a win for George W. Bush, a loss for the Democratic lawyers trying to get some 25,000 ballots thrown out in Seminole and Martin counties. That, apparently, is not going to happen.
As you heard Terre Cass speaking for both the justices in Seminole and Martin counties, despite irregularities, the integrity of the election has not been compromised. That is what our expert David Cardwell had told Bill Hemmer would be the outcome, huh, Bill?
HEMMER: Yes, Natalie, if you can hear me inside here a couple of critical things that were mentioned from Terre Cass in that ruling. She mentioned the word ballots twice. The fact that ballots and the integrity of those ballots was not compromised and I think based on what the judges ruled there that was the absolute key for them. Was the election put in doubt because of the ballots and whether or not the ballots were affected? Again, throughout this entire case I think there's a bit of confusion with regard to the ballot and the actual application. In Seminole County and in Martin County it was clear throughout the entire trial that it was the form that was being discussed that had been sent to Republican voters in Seminole, Martin counties, returned to the election officers in both those counties, and then those particular voter identification numbers were absent and that's when the election workers for the Republican Party went into the offices, applied those voter ID numbers, the returned those applications with the ballot out to voters.
And clearly that's what the judges have ruled in the Seminole and Martin County cases now have been dismissed and denied and clearly that is a victory for the George Bush team and their fight for the White House. We anticipated, Natalie, three key ruling throughout the day today. We have two thus far and both have gone in favor of the Republicans.
ALLEN: OK, Bill Hemmer, thanks. And again, we remind our viewers that both sides were expected to file an appeal no matter the outcome here. So that probably will happen on behalf of the Democratic lawyers, but for more legal analysis now, let's go to Stephen.
FRAZIER: Who is going to be aided, thank goodness, by Greta Van Susteren, our legal analyst in Washington. And Greta, as you may have seen in the past, a lot of importance weighing in on a very, very short announcement there, but the key phrase the sanctity of the ballots. How poetic.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, except the sanctity of the ballots was not something that's just got sort of pulled out of the hat by the judges. Actually, Stephen, it comes directly from an earlier Florida Supreme Court case and that's when we heard that the announcement said that the controlling legal precedent, they were actually pulling out of a another Florida Supreme Court one of the factors to consider is whether there was the sanctity of the ballot and the integrity of the election was in jeopardy.
And, remember, and I haven't yet seen the judges' full written opinion, but I suspect what the judges are going to say is, look, these were ballot applications. These were not ballots themselves. We have no reason to think that the intent of the voters has in any way been poisoned, distorted or anything other than whatever was the person checked off on the ballot or punched. So, not a big surprise in that they just tracked the language of another Florida Supreme Court case of a few years back.
FRAZIER: Greta, while we're listening to you we're also seeing pictures of that same lectern where Terre Cass made the announcement because we want to let folks know that in a few minutes we're expecting to hear from attorneys from both sides on this case. But while we're showing you that, let's continue our analysis of what this means. So they never even got to some of the more complicated or not the -- they had three issues to deal with and the first one, I guess, was the trump card. VAN SUSTEREN: Well, yes, I mean, that's the important one. But you know, what's sort of interesting about this, Stephen, is that earlier on "BURDEN OF PROOF" Roger and I had the party's lawyers or at least representatives of parties and both sides said that they were ready to go to the court of appeals whoever did lose.
Obviously, the Democratic voters lost in that instance so the notice of appeal is probably being filed as we speak and it'll go to the intermediary appellate court and they'll seek to go -- to leap- frog it. To have what they call in Florida a throw-up to the Florida Supreme Court that'll end up there.
But the briefs, I could assure you, are written. They're going to need to see the judge's order to do some fine tuning to the briefs, but both sides were prepared to lose. Both sides were prepared to go immediately to the Florida Supreme Court and now they just do some adjustments to the written pleadings based on what the judge who actually write in their written order. So, they're ready to move on.
FRAZIER: And you wonder if you're not a lawyer how they can because here they would have to attack failures to work within the law on the part of these two ruling judges?
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, what they will do is they'll say that the judges' conclusion were just were wrong. That there was abuse of discretion. So -- they have two choices. They can either attack the facts. They can say if they look at the judges' order see the that the judge relied on some facts that simply weren't facts, that weren't presented, for instance in the trial, then they would take it up on that issue. If they think that the judge applied the wrong law to the facts, that would be the issue. If they think that the judge just sort of was wildly out of control, that would be the issue.
But I will tell you that in this type of case you're in a tough position going to the Florida Supreme Court because the court will probably look to see whether the judge's abuse of discretion. Not whether the Florida Supreme Court necessarily agrees with these two judges' decisions, but whether it was sort of way off the charts and it's tough. We've seen cases get reversed.
I don't know what the Supreme Court will do. I haven't seen the judge's order. But I have been there. I know enough that I'd much rather be the winner on the way up to the Supreme Court on the receiving end of appeal than the loser in a case like this. It's a much harder case to win the further you get through the litigation stream.
FRAZIER: All right. Greta Van Susteren, thank you so much. We'll be turning to you as the day progresses. A lot more to say about all of this. Let's go to Natalie, now.
ALLEN: And we want to you to keep a watch of those numbers there in the corner of your screen right under the CNN Live, the Nasdaq and the Dow we're watching closely and we'll talking with our folks on Wall Street if there are any drastic changes there as a result as the outcomes come available to us. Let's go to CNN's Jeanne Meserve. She's in Austin, Texas. Let's see if there's been reaction from the George Bush camp yet -- Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, yes, some quick reaction from a Bush aide who said to me, we -- there is great delight at the laws being uphold.
Someone else with the Bush campaign saying two down, one to go. The Bush campaign understandably thrilled at this turn of events. They had argued that the ballots had been tampered -- had not been tampered with here. Only the applications. That the vote had been full of integrity and the suggested remedy of throwing out all the absentee ballots simply was too radical a solution.
Apparently, the judges have both agreed with them. We are expecting some more formal reaction from the Bush camp but the first brief from them, great delight at the laws being upheld.
Natalie, back to you.
ALLEN: Do they remain optimistic for the next outcome we expect to hear perhaps today from the state Supreme Court?
MESERVE: I don't know if I would say they remain optimistic. I think their argument is that they presented a good case to the Florida Supreme Court Justices. They believe the difficult task falls to the Gore attorneys because they are asking for a decision to be overheard -- overturned. But optimistic might be too strong a word to use. They're very cautious, having been through all the twists and turns this story has taken over the last several weeks -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Jeanne Meserve, we thank you as always for being right there at your post when we need you.
And we expect to hear from Patty Davis as well, who's covering the Gore campaign, to get reaction from that side to this outcome today.
We want to talk with one of our able legal analysts now -- political analyst Jeff Greenfield who's in New York. He's an everyman analyst, we should say.
Jeff, thank you so much. And what is your reaction to this this afternoon?
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN ANALYST: First, I'm glad you corrected yourself because 33 years away from law school, and it was clearly not my vocation, is a long time.
ALLEN: I got you.
GREENFIELD: But I don't think this surprised anybody because it was the case where the irregularity was the clearest and where the remedy was the most difficult. Not only the most difficult but, from the Gore perspective a remember that, while I'm sure they would have been happy to take it -- went completely against the grain of everything they've been saying for the last month.
They've been in the Florida Supreme Court in the protest phase and now the contest phase with one key argument: Make every vote count; that's their theme. So how you win the presidency with a couple of court rulings that would have said every vote counts, but not these, even though there was nothing wrong with the ballots would have presented them with a political problem, you know, the size of giant migraine.
I think everybody in the Gore campaign has focused for the last several days on really one big hope, however long it is, that the Florida Supreme Court will reverse Judge Sauls', somehow order an immediate count of the ballots and find enough outstanding ballots for Gore to change the outcome.
I think, while we were all fixated on Seminole County and Martin County because there seemed have been something that was untoward, the idea that the judges were going to throw out thousands of ballots was always a long shot beyond the long shot. And I think the Gore campaign, while they would have taken this result, had it gone their way, would have had a political nightmare in trying to explain their position.
ALLEN: As we talk with Jeff we remind our viewers we're keeping our eyes and one camera trained to this podium right here because we do expect the lawyers from both sides in this latest court fight to talk to us and get their reaction; and we'll bring that to you live when we see them step up to the podium there. We don't have any idea when that might happen.
So back to Jeff Greenfield; clearly the end in sight, now, for the Al Gore battle?
GREENFIELD: Well, if you know the outcome of the Florida Supreme Court decision, you're way ahead of the rest of us.
Yes, look -- if the Florida Supreme Court says, no to the Gore appeal it is unfathomable now what they can do. I suppose they could appeal it to the United States Supreme Court, but on what grounds is a puzzle. And there's where you do need your Rogers and your Gretas to even conjure one up; and I suspect even our two brilliant legal analysts might be hard-pressed to figure out what the argument is, especially because the U.S. Supreme Court has already told the Florida Supreme Court: You've got to follow the state legislature's lead.
So with a Florida Supreme Court decision that would uphold the lower court, or dismiss will appeal, certainly all the Democrats I've talked to in the last several days who were standing by Al Gore and saying, yes, fight it as long as you can -- they're seeing the Florida Supreme Court as the finish line, the fourth quarter -- pick your own analogy.
What's beyond that other than divine intervention, I haven't a clue.
ALLEN: Jeff, thanks so much. We'll be talking with you again because, perhaps we will hear from the state Supreme Court before this day is out.
And we shoot over to Stephen right now.
FRAZIER: Natalie, like Jeff Greenfield, John King has been talking to Democrats, specifically those in the Gore campaign. And even though Jeff gave us a sense that all hopes were pinned, really, on the Supreme Court and that these two rulings, now, were sort of coming out of left field and not all that important -- surely, John, this has to be a slight disappointment for folks in the campaign.
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Stephen.
These were two cases they were tracking very closely and privately routing for the vice president -- even publicly rooting for the plaintiffs, the Democratic voters earlier in the week in a public appearance. Still, the reaction from the Gore campaign is to say, quote, "Our case is the Supreme Court case. We were not party to these cases."
The big question, though, will come if Al Gore loses, then, at the Florida Supreme Court. If he loses completely then, and gets no recount, will he immediately bow out of the race or will he then wait for the expected appeals of these two cases?
Now, democratic support will crumble for the vice president if that happens and his own aides say they can't answer the question, that the vice president has not told them, if he loses in at the Florida Supreme Court whether he would immediately bow out or wait for the Seminole and Martin County cases to be appealed.
What Democrats are saying, though: That would be a moment when the vice president, if he loses -- still a big if, we're waiting for that decision -- would have to go off in private and have some thinking to do.
FRAZIER: As difficult then, John, as the legal case would be for his legal team trying to appeal those; even more difficult would be the political case he would have to make to his colleagues there in Washington.
KING: That's right. There's nowhere else for the vice president to go legally, really, or politically -- especially if he loses at the Florida Supreme Court. Democrats already have told top Gore advisers, if he loses completely -- a trifecta -- these two cases he was not directly party to but obviously has interest in.
He has now lost. If he lose at next step, the Florida Supreme Court, Democrats are prepared to come out publicly and say it's time for the vice president to get out. They will give him sometime to do that himself, but if he doesn't, they will step out in public. Again, the mood among Democrats in town: They want the vice president to the handle this himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEOFF GARIN, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: But there's not, I don't think, a lot of support for carrying this out beyond that, and -- but this is a very personal -- this comes down to a very personal decision for Vice President Gore. I think what he's doing and has to do is weigh the potential for success against the likelihood that, if he persists and fails, he'll do damage to himself and to people's confidence in the whole process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: But again, we should make clear the reaction from the Gore campaign to these two decisions, some disappointment. They continue to express confidence they will get a new life from the Florida Supreme Court. They're most confident about their request that the Florida Supreme Court order a recount of those 9,000-plus ballots at Miami-Dade County -- that, obviously, the big question now, the big decision. The Gore campaign awaiting the reaction of the Florida Supreme Court -- Stephen.
FRAZIER: John, on another front, I'm curious if you've heard any reaction from any of the Gore campaign officials to the Op-Ed piece written by Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander, yesterday, which was sort of advising the vice president -- actually advising both candidates -- that it might be sweeter to lose and stop and smell the roses.
Now, that has never appeared to me to be the vice president's personal style. What was their reaction to his call?
KING: Well, former governor Alexander not the only one to make the case here that the most important speech, once this is resolved, will come not from the winner, but perhaps from the loser; especially if it is the vice president, as most in Washington now expect. But, again, we're still waiting to hear from the Florida Supreme Court.
If the vice president were to lose, he would be the candidate who won the most votes in the national election, yet he would not be the president-elect of the United States. Obviously the signals he sent to his supporters about how he expected them to react to support a Bush presidency, at least nominally, would be a very big speech.
Many have been saying it will be difficult for either of these men, George Bush or the Vice President to governor in this environment: a close presidential election on election night, now more than a month of contesting that election in the courts. When a new president is sworn in he will have an evenly divided Congress and an evenly divided country.
Some would ask, who would want to govern in this environment? It is clear that both George Bush and Vice President Gore would very much like the chance -- Stephen.
FRAZIER: Well, we'll know what their chances are in a short time, we believe. John King thanks very much for those insights -- Natalie. ALLEN: If you're just joining us, again, the news that has come about some 25 minutes ago -- both justices in the Seminole and Martin cases side with the defendants, the Republicans. They do not allow, as the Democrats had wanted in that case, the throwing out of tens of thousands of absentee ballots because Republican Party operatives were allowed to complete them -- filling in that number, we know now, that was missing from the form.
So that is two more strikes against Al Gore. Again, the Florida Supreme Court could rule today. We don't know if that will happen or not. We are also waiting to hear from the lawyers from this outcome we just learned in the Seminole and Martin County cases; and we hear that Mark Potter might have seen some appeal papers float by him just outside the courthouse there -- Mark.
POTTER: Well, Natalie, we -- everyone predicted that there would be an appeal, but now we have confirmation. One of the lawyers in the Martin County case, representing the plaintiff there, Ron Taylor (ph) went past some CNN employees as he left the room where the lawyers had been given the ruling by the court personnel. And, in brushing past our people, he said he was heading right down to file that appeal, hoping to get this case immediately to the Florida Supreme Court. So that's the Martin County case.
The Seminole case, we had been told already by the plaintiff there, Harry Jacobs who, himself, is an attorney -- he's a Democrat -- that there would be an appeal if he lost. He also said, interestingly, that he had also prepared in advance some paperwork in case he won, but he won't be needing that.
Now I'm told that we have Gerald Richman, who is Harry Jacobs' lawyer, heading to the podium now. He was the lead attorney for the plaintiff in the Seminole County case.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
GERALD RICHMAN, PLAINTIFF'S ATTORNEY: We believe we're right. We intend to take this up. We respectfully disagree with the judge's findings; she did find that the act was illegal but she found that it didn't reach the level of intentional wrongdoing, and we believe that it clearly does; both on the party of the supervisor of elections and on -- certainly on the part of the Republican Party. They knew the law, they violated the law, and we intend to take this up and go, presumably, right to the Supreme Court.
QUESTION: Mr. Richman, if Vice President Al Gore concedes, will you still continue with your appeal?
RICHMAN: I've said the same comment on that. If it ends up as a matter of law, mooting what we're doing, there would be no purpose in pursuing the appeal. But I don't know that that's the case. We haven't looked at that.
QUESTION: Isn't the remedy you're asking for extreme, considering -- and that's sort of how -- the judges even said they agreed with you but that the remedy was too drastic?
RICHMAN: The judges in the brief opinion we read didn't really say that. They just said faulty judgment, and we certainly believe this is above the level of faulty judgment. When you let somebody from the Republican Party come into your office for three weeks and go ahead and change and alter public documents, and that's a strong basis for our appeal.
I don't see how you can find that just simply faulty judgment.
QUESTION: What if Al Gore asks you to stop the appeal?
RICHMAN: I'd love to talk to him, but he hasn't called me or asked me, so I really can't comment on that.
QUESTION: What if he asks, though, in his concession speech that all Democrats drop their suits, Mr. Jacobs?
RICHMAN: That's up to my client. And as a practical matter, that's simply a bridge that we'll cross when we come to it.
QUESTION: Well, what would you say, Mr. Jacobs, if that request is made?
HARRY JACOBS, SEMINOLE COUNTY CASE PLAINTIFF: What request?
QUESTION: If the Gore campaign conceded and encouraged you to drop the suit?
JACOBS: I'd take it under consideration.
RICHMAN: Everybody needs to keep in mind that this case is going up on appeal either way. I'd rather be going up to the court as the appellee, rather than the appellant, but it's going up. And this was a case that was going to go the Supreme Court on a fast track.
QUESTION: Mr. Richman, will part of your appeal concern the commingling of the cases?
RICHMAN: No. No, I don't know that the commingling has anything to do with it. You have two judges that made a decision, basically, on facts that were similar, but there were some differences between the two. We think both cases were strong cases for intentional wrongdoing. And that's what the opinion hung on; that it was illegal, faulty judgment, but not enough to be intentional wrongdoing. And I don't see how you can not find intentional wrongdoing on the facts of this case.
QUESTION: Do you think that put pressure on the judges, the fact that across the street that they're saying, "We're ready to move if this is still tied up in court battles"?
RICHMAN: I really can't speak for the judge's mind on that. I have no idea. I know that we tried our case without regard to what the legislature is doing.
And hopefully, the legislature will not act in a way that will steal the election. Because for a partisan legislature to come in at this point, I think is wrong for all the people of the United States.
QUESTION: Do you think there's enough time left for the outcome of this case on your appeal of the case, the outcome of this election?
RICHMAN: Absolutely, because as the Supreme Court has indicated, it can do it on a fast track. We could be up before the Supreme Court if they wanted us to be, certainly, by Monday. And that would make the difference.
QUESTION: You've spoken to Al Gore's lawyers prior to filing the case. If they suggest to you that, "Let's let it go," because he's conceding, will you then concede this or will you then drop this?
JACOBS: Well, Mr. Gore's lawyers have never listened to me yet, so I'm not sure I would listen to them at this point.
RICHMAN: We sought help from them and they elected not to help us. We were on our own in this case.
QUESTION: Can you discuss a little more detail, perhaps, some of the mistakes that Judge Clark, you feel, made? Sounds like she relied very heavily on Boardman, which may or may not be the part of the standard -- you know, changed the '98 law.
RICHMAN: She relied heavily on Boardman, and she relied on Boardman with regard to the proposition of intentional wrongdoing. It didn't find enough in the way of intentional wrongdoing.
QUESTION: Do you think it's a mistake to rely on Boardman since it changed the '98 law?
RICHMAN: I think that the Boardman decision is still regarded as law, based on what the Supreme Court said in Harris, but the Boardman decision was before the 1998 anti-fraud amendments. And we have a difference in terms of the interpretation.
QUESTION: Could that be changed what the Supreme Court says this afternoon, if they decide that Boardman's still the standard or is not the standard?
RICHMAN: Frankly, I've been so busy trying this case, I haven't been able to watch the arguments in the other case, so I don't know. I can't comment.
QUESTION: How are you going to connect the illegal acts -- I guess the judge said both Sandy Goard and the state GOP were illegal acts that they did. How are you going to make the connection to this corrupting the full and fair will of the people? I think that's what you're going to have to do on the appeal, right?
RICHMAN: That's exactly what you have. You cannot have a lawful ballot cast if you have an unlawful absentee ballot request form, and that's -- the legislative scheme said, "you got to jump through hoops here. If you want an absentee ballot, you've got to do certain things to do an absentee request form," and it's the voter that has to do it.
And here it's the Republican Party that did it, changing it after the voter had signed it.
RICHMAN: Voters were punished for what happened in the 1997 case involving the city of Miami. I mean, in every case, use the example the judge used. At 7 p.m., the polls close. And then at that time, a busload of Republicans show up, and the supervisor of election goes ahead and lets them vote. When those people vote, it's the will of the people. It's what they intended to do in terms of voting, but the votes are illegal. They cannot be counted, because think of all of the other people who didn't know that the polls were going to remain open after 7:00.
QUESTION: But in the Miami case there were illegal votes, there were fraudulent ballots and dead people voting. That's illegal votes.
RICHMAN: No, some. No, no, no...
QUESTION: ... weren't illegal votes?
RICHMAN: No, what happened in the city of Miami is, is a lot of votes that were not fraudulent were thrown out because of what happened. There were some illegal votes, and as a result of that it tainted the pool and 40,000 votes were thrown out. We were only asking for a much lesser amount in this case.
QUESTION: Are you saying Republicans got away with something by this ruling?
RICHMAN: Absolutely. Unfortunately, the judge said that she didn't want a case that was going to send a message, she just wanted a case that was going to be decided on the law and on the facts. But this case does send a message. The message that it sends is, is that political parties can get away with this kind of chicanery. That's the problem, and that's what we hope the Supreme Court will address. If you're going to have an anti-fraud statute that's passed by the legislature, you've got to enforce that statute.
QUESTION: How would your relationship with Mr. Gore change should you win on appeal?
RICHMAN: A relationship to who?
QUESTION: Mr. Gore, the vice president.
JACOBS: Do you have a relationship?
RICHMAN: I do not have any relationship to the vice president. I have met him once -- and not in relation to this case, I might add; long before I got involved in it.
QUESTION: Mr. Richman, do you think your loss has something to do with the fact that this involved request forms as opposed to ballots themselves? I know the Republicans pointed out that the ballots themselves, there was no question of the integrity of the ballots, just the forms. Do you think that had to do with your loss?
RICHMAN: That has to do with what the judge said in her opinion. It's what we disagree with, because I don't see how you can have a valid ballot if the ballot request form is invalid, if it's void as it was stated to be void by the election supervisor herself.
She goes ahead and puts something on the Internet. And on the Internet, she says, "It's void if you don't fill all this in." And then she goes ahead and lets the Republican Party come in after the fact and fill it in. And our evidence indicated that of the numbers filled in, even the ones filled in by Mr. Leach, the illegal operative of the Republican Party, that a number of those numbers he filled in were wrong.
So the process has basically not been followed in this case.
QUESTION: Well, a lot of the counties don't require the number on request forms.
RICHMAN: Do two wrongs make a right? You've got to ahead and follow the law. Because one county might not do it and another one does, doesn't mean that the one that doesn't follow the law is able to get away with it. The law should be uniform in the state.
One problem that this whole process has brought out, is the problem with voting in America in the sense that we don't have the kind of uniform voting equipment we ought to have; we don't have uniform standards.
All this needs to be changed. And what should come out of this election, is a uniform system, so the people in the United States can trust their vote.
We have opportunities for fraudulent voters. In the city of Miami, when I ran in 1989, they found out that 27 percent of the people were illegals, they weren't U.S. citizens. Point being: We need to be able to establish standards that are uniform.
QUESTION: Mr. Richman, the Republican Party tried to have this judge disqualify herself. Are you concerned at all that she ruled this way, because she wanted to prove -- to go in the other direction and prove that she was not biased in any way?
RICHMAN: I really don't know, but I can tell you that I think that there was no basis whatsoever for the motion to attempt to disqualify the judge.
QUESTION: Do you she's been fair? Do you feel she appropriately judged your case?
RICHMAN: All I can tell you is, is that she listened to everything in the case. We respectively disagree with her decision.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) by the fact that the venue was changed?
RICHMAN: Not at all.
QUESTION: Can you two talk more specifically what the points of your appeals will be? What errors? Could you be more specific?
RICHMAN: I'd really need to think about that. I mean, in general the evidence strongly supports intentional wrongdoing. In general, the judge has said it's merely faulty judgment; we disagree with that.
And also the interpretation of the law. One of the other things that the court missed on here is, in a quick reading of the opinion, the court stated that there was no evidence of any effect on any Democrats, and we know of at least 34 Democrats who requested absentee ballots whose absentee ballot request forms were rejected because they didn't have the voter identification number on there. They were not ones that used the party form, but they weren't given the benefit of this. And that alone, in and of itself, should establish disparate treatment between Republicans and Democrats.
POTTER: Well, Gerald Richman -- Gerald Richman, the lead attorney in the Seminole County case, standing next to Harry Jacobs, the loan plaintiff, continuing to argue aggressively that despite this loss at the Leon County Courthouse, they will not give up. They say they will be taking this case to the Florida Supreme Court.
Also, an attorney for the Martin County case, for the plaintiff in the Martin County case says he, too, will be taking this case to the Florida Supreme Court. So this case is not over yet. Together, the plaintiffs had argued that as many as 25,000 absentee ballots be thrown out. But the judges, Terry Lewis and Nikki Ann Clark, said they would not be doing that, saying that the will of the voters had -- was reflected in that election.
Stephen, back to you.
FRAZIER: Mark, thank you. We're going to bring in Roger Cossack now for a little bit more analysis on this.
And, Roger, I think it's important to point out what Mark -- to elaborate on what Mark just pointed out, that standing to the right of the screen as the viewers were looking there is the man who actually brought the suit, Harry Jacob. He brought it as a voter and a resident of Florida. He happens to be an attorney, but he didn't argue his own case.
And you heard his attorney there say that the Gore legal team didn't talk to them at all during this. It was almost as if they were toxic.
ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, as Bill Schneider has often pointed out, this is a tough position for Gore, because on one hand he's been -- the mantra has been count the votes, count the votes, count the votes, but in this particular case it's been, well, don't count the votes, don't count the votes.
So I think in some ways while I'm sure Vice President Gore was secretly saying, count all the votes except these, he didn't want to go publicly on record as having that split sort of feeling of some votes should be counted and the ones that are against me shouldn't be counted.
FRAZIER: You know, listening as we just were, it did sound like Gerald Richman, the attorney who argued that case, had a point when he discussed the disparate treatment of Democratic filers for an absentee ballot who were not permitted to secure a ballot because they didn't have just the same kind of numbers that were put on ballots by Republican workers.
COSSACK: You know, if -- there's no question that Vice President Gore has a gripe about the way this was handled. No one will dispute that. And the question really got down to, what are you going to do about it? I think it's clear that the Republican operatives acted incorrectly in adding this information and certainly being allowed to take it home.
But the case they have all quoted is this Beckstrom case, and the Beckstrom case, I would say, if I could, simply stands for the proposition that stuff happens and that in every election, unless it's very, very, very bad stuff -- that is described as fraud, gross negligence or intentional wrongdoing -- which adversely affects -- remember these words? -- the sanctity of the ballot and the integrity of the election, which the words of the judges said didn't, that was just going to not make major changes.
And that's what the decision reflects here, a reflection that these things shouldn't have gone on, But if the remedy requires throwing out votes by voters who did nothing wrong, we're just not going to do it.
FRAZIER: That's right. And you're describing something that a non-lawyer would consider just good sense and an issue -- an attempt to do right by the county commissioner of elections, who said that she thought she was helping voters get their -- their proper vote.
COSSACK: You know, who knows what she thought and what her intents were and what she was really thinking.
FRAZIER: Well that's what she was thinking anyway.
COSSACK: Well, I know, but I'm sure that when it came time to suddenly justify the fact that she was adding things in for mostly Republicans and allowing, you know, Republicans to come in and alter these applications, you know, a description of that is, well, I was just trying to make wrong right.
Whatever it is, I just feel that the court with this decision says is, look, as a judge, I have to go by certain standards, assuming that these standards are correct. And if I do have to go by these standards, they just don't meet the standards. And the standards have to be high because otherwise the remedy is throwing out votes from people who did nothing wrong. And you just don't want to end up there unless there's no way to avoid it.
FRAZIER: Yes, it's kind of a nuclear blast, isn't it, Roger?
FRAZIER: Roger Cossack, thank you for those insights. There's much more to say about all this, and we have the people lined up to say it. But right now, we're going to step away for just a minute and take a break.
When we come back, much more.
ALLEN: And now a lawyer for the Republican side.
Here's Ben Ginsberg.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
BEN GINSBERG, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: ... the two judges here on the Leon County Circuit Court affirming the right to vote.
On behalf of Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney, we are most gratified that the right to vote for some 25,000 Floridians, both Republicans and Democrats alike, has been upheld today.
Good afternoon. We are, of course, gratified with the two strong rulings from the two judges here on the Leon County Circuit Court affirming the right to vote. On behalf of Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney, we are most gratified that the right to vote for some 25,000 Floridians, both Republicans and Democrats alike, has been upheld today. And we believe the opinions of the court were extremely strong, well-reasoned decisions rooted in both law and fact.
With that, Barry Richard and Daryl Bristow, who are our lead attorneys in this case, along with Irv Terrell and Phil Beck, would be happy to answer some questions. Thanks.
QUESTION: The judges seemed bothered by the fact that there had been these ID numbers put on the applications, but that it didn't rise to the level of the remedy that was sought. Your response to that?
DARYL BRISTOW, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTY.: I believe in legal language what she said is what we said all along: This was a hyper-technical computer glitch that had not a thing to do with the will of the voter.
QUESTION: Mr. Richman says they want to pursue -- they'd like to see the state attorney pursue criminal charges against Sandra Goard. Your reaction?
BRISTOW: Yes, I've been with her, met her, talked to her both out of court. This is a very fine woman, and I think it is absolutely pure, 100 percent bogus.
QUESTION: Do you think, in retrospect, it was a mistake to try to have Judge Clark removed from the case?
BRISTOW: That was a motion to bring to her attention an issue so that she could consider it.
GINSBERG: We never wanted history to look back and have any second guess about this proceeding. She had it. She considered it. She decided that she did not have an issue that would influence her. And, as everybody on our team and every team knows, she handled this case in a masterful way.
QUESTION: Mr. Richman, Mr. Ginsberg, you've been involved in a number of these cases now. And, if you could, do you think there's an opinion that can be now coalesced (OFF-MIKE) And is there a message that you think that the courts are and that maybe should be given out to Vice President Gore?
GINSBERG: I think we'll politefully decline to answer that question. Each case has been an examination of the law and facts and the decisions of the judges speak for themselves.
QUESTION: Is this a final blow to the Gore campaign in your opinion?
BARRY RICHARD, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: We have one more case still pending, a little matter down the road.
QUESTION: What's your reaction to them appealing to the Supreme Court?
RICHARD: Well, they can't appeal to the Supreme Court. They can only appeal to the district court of appeal. Only the district court of appeal can decide whether or not to certify it up to the Supreme Court. Yesterday, for the first time since the election that I'm aware of, the district court of appeal declined to certify a case up to the Supreme Court. And in my opinion, ought to do the same thing today, because this is, as I mentioned to the Supreme Court with the case there yesterday, just a garden variety appeal from a normal ruling after a full trial.
QUESTION: Did you have an appeal ready as well to send up, had you lost today?
RICHARD: Well, the nature of this case, all of these cases, which have been moving at light speed is such that we've had to anticipate every possibility and prepare for every contingency. The brief that would be filed is the same brief, regardless of who it is that appeals. It is just the front of the brief that differs. So the answer is, yes, we've been working on a brief for an anticipated appeal. And, essentially, our brief argues the same position that both judges took.
QUESTION:: Have you worked on a brief for a possible (OFF-MIKE)
RICHARD: Well, you know, the briefs at this stage of the game are pretty much cut-and-paste, because we've all briefed every issue in some forum. So the answer is that, yes, whatever may be a stage that follows something that the Florida Supreme Court does, we're prepared for whatever we need to do.
QUESTION: Mr. Richard, why was it necessary to submit -- for the Supreme Court cases, submit the clarification today?
RICHARD: Well, the reason we submitted it is because the Supreme Court asked a question during oral argument that the parties had not thoroughly briefed. And that's the reason that we did it.
QUESTION: Could you respond to the accusation by the plaintiff that it's a conspiracy by the Republican Party to contact supervisors of elections in counties and mess with the absentee ballot request forms?
RICHARD: Well, the way our system works, is that both parties present their position to an objective judge, and the judge decides who's right. That was their position, and both judges after a full trial, decided that they had failed to prove it. So my response is that the judge agreed with us that there was no conspiracy.
QUESTION: What do you think -- Gerry Richman calling for election reform and saying that that session meeting over there was partisan politics?
RICHARD: What session meeting?
QUESTION: I just meant the legislative session.
RICHARD: That's out of my realm.
QUESTION: Do you think we need election law reform? He said this was a case that clearly shows we needed some sort of reform in the way we elect officials in this country.
RICHARD: I didn't hear his statement and I'm not sure what he's suggesting we need to reform. And, in any case, I've been too busy trying 40-some-odd lawsuits to concentrate on whether or not we need to reform our election laws.
STAFF: Time for a couple of more.
QUESTION: Can you clarify -- in your papers today -- is it your position that the Supreme Court, in this case, the way it's been presented by the Democrats, that they do not have jurisdiction? What is the opinion?
RICHARD: Well, let me explain the distinction, because I know that a number of you have asked if there was an inconsistency, and there was not.
The position that we have taken is that the United States Constitution and applicable federal law, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court, is that only the state legislature has the authority to set the rules for the selection of presidential electors. And what that means is, that a court, whether it's the Supreme Court of Florida or a circuit court, does not have the power to substitute its judgment for the body that has been authorized to make decisions, which, in this case, is the county canvassing board.
That's why we said that the Supreme Court didn't have jurisdiction, not that they didn't have jurisdiction to hear appeals, but they didn't have jurisdiction to engage in certain types of remedies, which would substitute their judgment for the canvassing boards.
The question that the justice asked me during oral argument was whether the Supreme Court had jurisdiction to hear an appeal from Judge Sauls. And my response was, I thought that they did, that the United States Supreme Court decision had nothing to do with whether or not they had jurisdiction to hear an appeal from a circuit judge.
For instance, what if Judge Sauls had substituted his judgment for the canvassing board? Then surely the Supreme Court would have had jurisdiction to hear that and decided that he couldn't do that based upon federal law.
So they're two different issues.
QUESTION: Did you have to, in a sense, take that position to preserve your ability to appeal this, the Seminole and Martin case, in terms of jurisdiction?
RICHARD: Well, that might have. I mean, if I had not taken that position and then we had had to appeal on of these cases, someone might have suggested it was inconsistent.
But that was not what motivated me. What motivated me is the court asked me a question and I gave them what I thought was the proper legal answer.
QUESTION: How about the Duval County? Are you concerned at all about that?
RICHARD: Well, the answer is I'm not concerned about it, number one. And number two, it's been filed and the court -- nobody's asked for an expedited hearing, so I'm not sure what it is that the plaintiffs are looking for given the time situation.
QUESTION: What do you anticipate their lead argument will be in the appeal?
RICHARD: On which appeal?
QUESTION: On their appeal to the Supreme Court?
RICHARD: Knowing what I do of the trial and the judgments, I'd have a very difficult time conceiving of what the lead argument would be.
STAFF: Thank you very much.
RICHARD: I like Miami. ALLEN: Barry Richard, one of the few lawyers, Barry Richard, who announced in court yesterday he is a registered Democrat, the lead man for George Bush in his fight there in Florida.
We want to read for you the ruling that was announced just a little less than an hour ago from the judges who refused to throw out those absentee ballots in question by the Democrats in both Seminole and Martin counties, and this is what they wrote.
"The trial courts in both Seminole County and Martin County have determined that despite irregularities in the requests for absentee ballots, neither the sanctity of the ballots or the integrity of the election has been compromised, and that the election results reflect a full and fair expression of the will of the voters."
That from Judge Martin and Judge Clark, just about 50 minutes ago.
So now all the focus is on the state Supreme Court. Barry Richard taking some questions about his appearance yesterday in that appeal by the Gore team, and we could get the results from the Supreme Court today -- we will see momentarily.
For now, we turn back to CNN's Mark Porter, who is rejoined by more lawyers in this case -- Mark.
POTTER: Thank you, Natalie.
A couple of lawyers in this case, a plaintiffs' attorney and the plaintiff himself from the Seminole County case, Harry Jacobs, Gerald Richman.
Gentlemen, thanks for joining us.
Harry, thank you for coming out here so quickly, and I want to ask you first, you said going in you were cautiously optimistic, but it didn't go your way. How are you feeling now about this?
JACOBS: Well, certainly disappointed, but we do respectfully disagree with the opinion of the court, and we have already filed an appeal. And we're hoping to prevail in the appellate court, Supreme Court.
POTTER: You said, when I interviewed you in Seminole County about a week and a half ago, you said that you thought some people might be very upset with you for filing this case. Do you still feel that way and have you been hearing from people?
JACOBS: Well, it certainly -- I certainly reside in and work in a Republican county, so they're not too happy with me for filing this case. But I think it was the right thing to do, and I'd do it over again. I think we're going to prevail ultimately in the Supreme Court.
POTTER: Let me step in front of you for a second. I don't mean to be impolite, but I'm going to talk to your attorney, Gerald Richman.
Gerald, you have a piece of paper in your hand. What's that?
RICHMAN: This is the notice of appeal. It was filed at 2:47 p.m. this afternoon. Both sides would have appealed this case whichever way it went, so we were ready to go just as I'm sure they were ready to go, and ultimately, the Supreme Court will be the decider of this issue.
POTTER: Realistically, given this ruling, what do you think your chances are before the Florida Supreme Court>?
RICHMAN: Whenever you're the appellant, it's tougher, but we think on the facts and the record that we've got in this case that we have a reasonable chance of winning. The judge made certain factual findings, and we believe that they are contrary to what's in the record. She found that what occurred in this case was faulty judgment, and we believe very strongly that what occurred in this case was intentional knowing wrongdoing, because both the Republican Party and the supervisor of elections knew exactly what they were doing in violation of the statute.
POTTER: Let me read you a couple of lines from the full ruling, which we now have from the judge in the Seminole case.
One sentence: "Finally, the court finds that the irregularities complained of, specifically the filing in of voter identification numbers on absentee ballot request forms after they had been returned to the supervisor of election's office, did not adversely affect the sanctity of the absentee ballots subsequently cast."
Either gentleman want to address that?
RICHMAN: Absolutely. How can you have a valid absentee ballot if the process of getting it is in violation of the law? Our position is simply one follows the other. Just the same example about the bus: Voters show up late and they're allowed to vote by a Republican supervisor, and they're Republicans and Democrats aren't given that opportunity, the votes that they cast express their will. That's what they intended to do, but those votes are not valid.
In this case, they were cast before 7:00, but the way they got the ballots is what was clearly illegal. And the Republican Party got disparate treatment under the law. So, that should be reversed.
POTTER: Harry, let me ask you about the prospect of fellow citizens of yours in Seminole County losing their vote if the ruling had gone your way. How would you feel about that?
JACOBS: I wouldn't feel good about it, but on the other hand, I think it's more important to protect the electoral process itself. There were a number of votes that should never have been counted. Remember, that absent the valid ballot application, no ballot should have issued. And approximately 2,000 ballots issued, and there were 2,000 additional votes for Governor Bush in this particular instance. In an election where every vote is crucial, certainly 2,000 votes, we all know, could have swung this election, and that is an effect on the electoral process itself, which is more important to protect than those of the absentee ballot voters who may have voted correctly.
POTTER: Harry Jacobs, Gerald Richman, thank you very much for your time.
JACOBS: Thank you.
RICHMAN: Thank you.
POTTER: That's the situation here at the Leon County Courthouse. I'm sure we'll be hearing from more lawyers shortly. We have a crowd gathering behind us, and if we can get them to talk to you, we'll be back.
Natalie, back to you.
ALLEN: All right, Mark. And we just want to let our viewers know very quickly that other correspondents at the state Supreme Court have noticed the podium -- and a microphone being set up out there. So we may yet hear from spokesman Craig Waters about whether or not a ruling will come down today -- Stephen.
FRAZIER: It could be a repeat of all the anticipation we just felt, and especially felt by Gary Tuchman, who is inside the Leon County Circuit court as everything happened. And he's with us now.
Gary, how did it go.
TUCHMAN: Well, Steve, it was a wild scene. The people here have never dealt with anything like this before -- not very surprising, because none than us, including the lawyers, ever have before. They said this announcement was going to come down at 2:15 Eastern Time. So around 2:00 Eastern Time, about 20 lawyers from all sides in both these case marched into the office of the court administrator to get the word first.
We expect that they would come out before the announcement. But they told the lawyers: Stay in the office. Let the court administrators come down first and tell the world before you come down and tell everybody else. It's fair to say, the Leon County courthouse has become a chamber of horrors for Al Gore and his Democratic allies: three major losses now. The rulings, as Mark Potter was just telling us, have just been released. They're hot off the presses.
The Seminole County ruling: 13 pages -- the Martin County ruling: 10 pages. And they're very similar, the wording. And that's not surprising, because both judges acknowledged conferring with each other today. Despite the fact that these were different cases held at different times, they decided to confer with each other. And their rulings are very similar. That was very interesting just hearing the attorneys for George W. Bush say that Judge Nikki Ann Clark did such a great job, because they tried like heck to get rid of her three times. The most recent times, they asked for a jury trial. She denied that motion. Before that, they asked for her to disqualify herself, because they alleged in legal papers that she might not be fair, because she was turned down for an appellate court seat by the governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, who happens to be the brother of George W. Bush. And before that, they tried to consolidate her case with Judge Sauls, the gentlemen who heard the case earlier this week regarding the vote counting.
All those efforts failed. But she ended up giving them a ruling they liked very much. And now you hear them praising her. So this is a big defeat for the Democratic plaintiffs in this case. We must point out -- and we need to repeat this -- Al Gore and his attorneys were not involved in these two cases. So they were not in the courtroom here. They were not in the court today. And they were not in the courtroom during these cases.
But Al Gore's attorneys certainly were involved in the case in Judge Sauls' courtroom, which they also lost. And now it appears there is just one more step to go. And we all wait for the ruling two blocks away from me at the Florida Supreme Court -- Stephen, back to you.
FRAZIER: Gary, it took us into some interesting territory there. Although we've been discussing the rule of law in Florida, this is -- these are rules and laws made by humans. And you talked a little bit about personal history, professional jealousies, professional histories that may lead to bias -- all interesting there.
TUCHMAN: No question about it. I mean, it's something we hear a lot during any controversial case: whether a judge is a registered Democrat or Republican. But the fact is: The judge's job is to be nonpartisan. So you could always complain about that. You would spend most of your life complaining. The key is: Judges are supposed to be nonpartisan. That's their job to be nonpartisan, despite the fact that they often have to run as Democrats or Republicans in certain jurisdictions.
FRAZIER: Indeed. Gary Tuchman, thank you for those insights from inside the courthouse.
Now let's go outside once again to our Mark Potter, who is standing by, I believe, with Barry Richard.
Is that right, Mark?
POTTER: That's right, Stephen. We have Barry Richard here. We're going to talk fast. Because you need to run to the Florida Supreme Court. You've been going from courtroom to courtroom, courthouse to courthouse.
RICHARD: I've been running for three weeks.
POTTER: I guess you have. Well, you're going to run some more in a second. Let me ask you your response to the ruling today. RICHARD: Well, I'm very pleased with it. I'm always pleased when I win, and I won two today so far, so I'm pleased. Hopefully, there'll be one more.
POTTER: Why do you think the judges ruled this way? What was behind this ruling?
RICHARD: Well, they both heard full trials and the plaintiffs didn't prove their cases. So they lost.
POTTER: And what was the -- I understand that. And what was the overriding issue, is what I meant to ask you, that you think convinced these judges?
RICHARD: Well, the judges found, properly, that these were hyper-technical violations of the statutes, that they did not have any impact upon the integrity of the ballots or the elections, and that they did not in any way interfere with the will of the people. And the law of this state is that hyper-technical violations of the statutes do not warrant invalidating ballots.
POTTER: Now, the plaintiffs have said they're going to the Supreme Court. You may be getting another chance to go there again. What would be your argument before the Supreme Court, if it comes to that, in sustaining this ruling from the judges today?
RICHARD: Well, the plaintiffs don't have the ability to go to the Supreme Court. They have to appeal to the District Court of Appeal, which is the interim level, and only the District Court of Appeal can decide whether they think it should be certified up to the Supreme Court, and I'm not convinced they're going to do that. And if they don't do it, this will just run the course of a normal appeal.
POTTER: And if it does get to that level, what's the point that you would make to the judges to convince them to sustain this ruling that we got out of the Leon County circuit?
RICHARD: That the judges made the correct legal ruling, that there was no evidence presented in the trials that would warrant overturning them.
POTTER: The supervisors of elections took a bad beating in this trial, at least from the plaintiffs' side. What's your response to that?
RICHARD: Well, you know, the trial lawyers presented a case that was designed to construct an appearance of a nefarious conspiracy. The facts in both cases lent themselves -- I think, didn't lend themselves to that conclusion. And in addition, the conspiracy that they were trying to build really had nothing to do with the issue of whether or not the integrity of the ballots or the election was compromised.
POTTER: Well, we're going to let you go to the Supreme Court. You have more work to do. Thanks for stopping by to talk with us today.
RICHARD: Thank you.
POTTER: Thank you very much. Don't go. We have a mike attached to you.
RICHARD: Oh, you want me to leave that with you?
POTTER: We are going to leave that with us, if we could, sir.
All right, Natalie and Stephen, back to you from the Leon County courthouse.
FRAZIER: Two for two, Mark. Thanks very much for lining up both sides for us.
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