Franken-Coleman Update, 03/6/09 (PM Edition): Franken Wins By Losing
The traditional media is casting today as a Big Setback for Al Franken, because the Minnesota Supreme Court denied his request to have the Secretary of State and the governor sign his election certificate. Big whoop — that was expected, as state law clearly calls for all election contests to be settled before a certificate can be signed. The really big news here is what MinnPost’s Eric Black sniffed out upon reading the Supreme Court’s opinion:
In writing the ruling, the state Supremes described the statute on certificates as providing that "a certificate of election cannot be issued until the state courts have finally decided an election contest."
If you’re paying close attention, you get the point by now. They didn’t pick up the somewhat mysterious "court of proper jurisdiction" language from the actual statute (which raises the question: just what is the court of proper jurisdiction") but referred throughout the opinion to the state courts.
Just to make sure he was reading this right, Black went to two local experts: David Schultz of Hamline University, who teaches election law, and law Professor Guy Uriel-Charles, formerly of the University of Minnesota but now teaching law at Duke. They both agreed: The Minnesota Supreme Court’s justice are saying that once they have reached their decision on this case, the certificate question is over, even if Coleman appeals to the Federal level. Of course, Coleman could try to get the US Supreme Court to issue a stay, but both Schultz and Uriel-Charles thought it highly unlikely the SCOTUS would get involved, as once the case leaves the Minnesota court system, it has to be based on federal claims, like the Coleman team’s "equal protection" argument (which both Team Franken and the Election Contest Court have batted around like cats on speed smacking around a stuffed mouse). But bogus or not, both experts believe that those federal law considerations would not directly affect whether the state of Minnesota issues a certificate of election. And if it somehow turns out that the certificate was issued in error, the remedy is not in the Federal courts anyway, but simply for the Senate to refuse to seat Franken.
So there you have it, folks. All Norm’s efforts to craft a means to pole-vault this sucker into the Federal courts are now for naught. And we will have a new senator — not in months, but in weeks, and by Harry Reid’s April 1 deadline in all probability.