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Greta Van Susteren: Justices well prepared for Florida election case

Greta Van Susteren  

December 1, 2000
Web posted at: 9:14 p.m. EST (0214 GMT)

CNN Legal Analyst Greta Van Susteren heard Friday's U.S. Supreme Court arguments in the Florida election dispute. What can you tell from the questions the U.S. Supreme Court justices asked the attorneys in the Florida election case?

Greta Van Susteren: Here's what I can tell from the justices' questions. I can tell you with great confidence, probably 100 percent certainty, that they were very well prepared. Clearly, they read the briefs. Clearly, they knew the issues. What I cannot tell you with any certainty whatsoever what their questions mean in terms of their ultimate decision. The fun part about being a lawyer is listening to the questions, dissecting them, having an autopsy of the questions, and the challenge of trying to figure out what they mean. But the reality is that it's only a challenge. We have no idea what it means.

graphic ALSO
• Minute by minute: How the U.S. Supreme Court hearing will proceed
CNN's Charles Bierbauer: Case should help states reevaluate their election laws
• Legal analyst Greta van Susteren: No cameras, but lots of action
• Legal analyst Roger Cossack: High anxiety before the high court
Article III of the U.S. Constitution (FindLaw)
Oral arguments schedule (FindLaw)
(These require Adobe® Acrobat® Reader™)
More related documents
graphic CASE FILE
graphic Reviewing the Vote: The U.S. Supreme Court reviews the Florida election case What was the atmosphere in and around the U.S. Supreme Court building Friday morning?

Greta Van Susteren: I've practiced law in Washington since 1979 and heard lots of Supreme Court arguments, but this is probably one of the most exciting. I got there at 6:30 in the morning and already there were lines of people lined up to get in at 10 a.m. There were demonstrators, there were Gore people, there were Bush people, there were even demonstrators demonstrating about issues unrelated to the election process. People were milling around, microwave trucks had their dishes up in the air. There was the whole excitement, which is incredibly contagious.

It was also fiercely cold as we stood in line. Roger Cossack and I stood in line together and waited for our chance to get in. Once inside the courthouse building itself you could still feel the excitement. This is important. And you could feel it. Do you think the intense publicity has an impact on how the court handles the case?

Greta Van Susteren: I hope not. We tend to think that justices and judges are superhuman and somehow immune from the pressures of the public. But they are human; they are not robots. But I am hopeful that they recognize their obligation to the Constitution and to the law and that they will perform consistent with that and not be colored by any sort of partisanship. Several questions and comments from the justices focused on whether the case should have come before the Supreme Court at all. What does that tell us?

Greta Van Susteren: Well, you've got to get in the front door, you've got to convince the court that you belong there. And people are divided on this. The Gore people say, hey, stay out of this, this is a state's rights issue, this is a state court interpreting the state law. And the Bush people say, wait a second, no its not, because you have the Constitution giving power to the legislature to set the mandate by which we select electors, and you have a state court stepping on the toes of the legislature by changing the rules - you've suddenly bootstrapped it into a constitutional issue because the power emanates from the Constitution to the legislature. So you've got two powerfully different viewpoints. Neither one is irrational. So the court first has to struggle with that. If it were an easy question, if it were simple, we wouldn't have heard any questions about it. Is it usual practice to have to explain why a case belongs before the Supreme Court?

Greta Van Susteren: No, but usually, things are rather clear cut. When it's divided, sure. Why do you suppose the Supreme Court would take a case they are not convinced they should hear?

Greta Van Susteren: They may have taken it to resolve that, to give us guidance in the future on that. They may have taken it for the bigger picture: When does interpretation seep over into enactment? When do courts go too far? What's interpreting the statute and what's rewriting the statute? This case may have profound significance not for this election but rather as guidance in the future in terms of how courts interpret statutes.

U.S. Supreme Court to hear historic presidential election case at 10 a.m. EST
December 1, 2000
Gore camp says time is running out for ballot recounts
November 30, 2000

Supreme Court of the United States
FindLaw Supreme Court Center
Legal Information Institute: Supreme Court Collection - Cornell University
On the Docket 2000-2001
The Supreme Court Historical Society
Jurist Guide to the Supreme Court - University of Pittsburgh
History of the Federal Judiciary

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