Coleman v Franken at MN Supreme Court

For fans of the Minnesota Recount, of which there are probably none at all, we hit another milestone today in the process.  The Minneosta Supreme Court will hear oral arguments from attorneys representing Norm Coleman and Al Franken in an attempt to resolve what the Secretary of State and a misdirected recount process tied into knots months ago:

The Minnesota Supreme Court hears oral arguments Monday in Republican Norm Coleman’s challenge to Democrat Al Franken’s claim on a U.S. Senate seat, possibly setting up the final chapter to one of the most colorful contests in recent political history.

Mr. Franken — a former comedian and “Saturday Night Live” star known for creating such characters as self-help guru Stuart Smalley — holds a 312-vote lead out of nearly three million in the race to be the next U.S. senator from Minnesota.

The court is likely to issue a decision within weeks, possibly handing Democrats a 60-vote majority in the Senate, enough to override any Republican attempts to delay legislation through filibusters.

The big question will be whether Governor Tim Pawlenty will sign a certification for Al Franken if the court rejects Norm Coleman’s appeal.  A lot of people in Minnesota want this embarrassing chapter closed, and the formal appeal process within the state ends at the state’s highest court.  Coleman can appeal in the federal courts, but that may not preclude the governor from signing a certification.

However, Pawlenty may decide that Coleman has a better chance in the federal courts than in the state courts, and he would probably be right, although the odds still favor Franken there, too.  The best argument Coleman has — an equal-protection argument that focuses on the unfairly prejudicial treatment of absentee ballots both in the election and especially in the recount — seems tailor-made for a federal challenge.  If the Minnesota courts don’t act on that argument, though, a federal court might be loath to intervene.

The only sure bet is that it will take weeks to get a ruling from the court, which means this story will continue to drag out even longer.