People around the country ask me all the time when I expect to see Minnesota seat its second Senator. My usual response is, “Hours, days, weeks, months, take your pick,” because no one knows how long it will take for appeals to move through the state and federal court systems. Fortunately, today, the Minnesota Supreme Court eliminated the first three options:
Minnesotans won’t know who will be their second U.S. Senator until at least June.
The state Supreme Court set the schedule today for the legal showdown between Democrat Al Franken and Republican Norm Coleman over the Senate seat that has been vacant since January.
The schedule, set by the five justices who will hear Coleman’s appeal, appears to hew more closely to his proposed schedule than the quicker one proposed by Franken.
Coleman must file his brief in the case no later than next Thursday; Franken has until May 11 to do so. Coleman then has until May 15 to file his reply brief.
The justices will hear the appeal on June 1, at 9 a.m.
Franken wanted the hearing expedited, but apparently didn’t get his wish. The Franken team tried to sound gracious by describing a six-week gap as “expedited,” while Team Coleman issued a statement thanking the court for the preparation time needed.
At this stage, though, it’s hard to see why the court needs this much time to hear oral arguments. While it’s hardly a life-or-death issue, Minnesota does have a disadvantage now in the US Senate. One might think that would prompt the court to move up oral arguments in order to at least finish this stop on the appeal train that will almost certainly go to the US Supreme Court, no matter which way this court rules.
A bigger issue will be potential recusals. Two appointees of Tim Pawlenty, Eric Magnuson and Barry Anderson, recused themselves from the decision on scheduling. Both were on the canvassing board that ran the recount at issue in Coleman’s appeal of the election contest board’s final decision. If both continue to recuse themselves from the case, it could make life difficult for Coleman in the appeal.
At this point, it seems more likely that Franken will prevail in the state courts anyway, although anything could happen. Coleman’s arguments on equal protection seem more suited to a federal appeal. We won’t find out for at least a couple of months.