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The Florida Recount: Bush Camp Tries, for a Second Time, to Have Courts Stop Hand Recounts

Aired November 15, 2000 - 10:32 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: Just a reminder that we are standing by for a comment from the Gore campaign's representatives in Florida, Warren Christopher and William Daley; we'll bring that to you live as soon as they come to the microphones.

But before we do that, we'd like to go, instead, to Atlanta to talk to Bob Franken. Bob is at the 11th circuit court of appeals.

And that is the federal court, Bob, if I understand correctly, that will handle what happens next on the Bush campaign's efforts to stop the manual recounts. What's going on there?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, we had one notice of an appeal of a Miami court ruling a couple of days ago by the Bush people that there should not be intervention by the federal courts to stop the hand recount. Now we have two. There is now a second court action that was taken in Orlando, Florida last night, where another group of people filed in another federal court -- the court of federal Judge John Antune (ph), seeking an end to the recounts.

Same arguments, same rejection by that judge; who said that A, it doesn't meet the standards to become a federal court matter -- no constitutional standards; and B, does not meet the standards for an emergency temporary restraining order, the main one being that there would be irreparable harm. So the district court judge turned the second group down, just like the first. Both of them have now filed motions of appeal here with the 11th circuit court.

Does that mean they will absolutely appeal here? They don't, necessarily, have to, although we're told that, in at least one case, there will be the requisite papers filed later today for that appeal. The 11th circuit court will be asked, in effect, to violate what the judges say was their own precedent and make this matter a federal matter instead of the state court matter that is normally preferred in such elections cases.

So it is going up the legal ladder. There is no indication that it is going to go any further of this, but the people who are friendly with Governor George Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, are trying to go to federal court too to stop the hand recounts in Florida. Thus far they've been unsuccessful, and they're going to try an appeal here. Two cases now, Steve. FRAZIER: Bob, if you've had a chance to look at any of what's coming out of these filings -- on what grounds are they taking this to an appeal? Usually you have to try to invalidate the way the original judge conducted his matters.

FRANKEN: The main argument that they make is that, by having hand recounts in only a few of the areas of Florida, the voters of the other areas are being denied equal protection, which is a violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution -- the equal protection clause. That is the main argument they're making.

They're saying that, since this is a constitutional matter, it should be in the federal courts. And thus far, two judges, one in Miami and one in Orlando have turned them down. The second argument they make is that there is a need to have a preliminary injunction stopping this -- a temporary restraining order -- that there is an important need to get it don now.

And there are several standards for that one I just mentioned, the irreparable harm; the other standard for a temporary restraining order is that there is a likelihood they would ultimately prevail when there was a full hearing. And both judges have said it doesn't meet that standard.

So the people who are filing this appeal here would seem to have an uphill battle, based on what we've seen from the lower courts. But, nevertheless, they've reserved their options to file their appeals.

FRAZIER: Nicely explained, Bob; thank you very much. It almost doesn't leave any more room for legal interpretation, but Daryn has a little more of that.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes; well, just because so much of this is ending up in the courts, we want to bring in our legal analysts Roger Cossack, joining us this morning, once again from Washington.

Roger, good to see you again.

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning, Daryn.

KAGAN: Good morning. First, let's go back to Florida. Why don't you explain to our viewers what, exactly, the secretary of state is trying to accomplish by bringing this before the state supreme court there.

COSSACK: Well, apparently what she's trying to do is get everything consolidated that seems to be, now, desperate throughout the state of Florida and get it all in front of one court. Obviously, the appeal to that is, is that you get it all in front of one group. One group makes the decision, you start knocking these things off one at a time, and you get that kind of decision and you get, sort of, an orderliness, if you will.

KAGAN: An efficiency.

COSSACK: An efficiency.

On the other hand, you know, these are local matters that can be decided locally, and people should have the ability to go before their local court. I'm sure she would argue that, look, it's just a better way of going about doing this. I just don't know if there's precedent to go ahead and do something like this.

KAGAN: Well, we haven't even heard from the Florida Supreme Court -- if they're going to take this.

COSSACK: Yes, and that's true; and they might very well say, look, you know, are the issues -- one of the things lawyers talk about is the ripeness: Is the issue ripe? Is this something that -- has there been a decision yet so that we have anything to decide? Is this something that we should be doing?

And that will be decided later on. But as you have seen, you know, we've heard all morning; look, there's a hearing going on right now about -- I must say, Daryn, my favorite word in all of this -- the pregnant chad...

KAGAN: Better than dimples?

COSSACK: ... or the dimpled chad.

The pregnant chad, you know, which I think sounds like an endangered species. But nevertheless, you know, we're having a hearing over something like that, which is to say: How do you go about counting these ballots? And it goes to show, you know, that these are difficult decisions and these people are trying as hard as they can with a little bit of politics mixed in.

KAGAN: All right, Roger, hold on. We want -- of course, this is live, breaking news. Right now we want to hear somebody from the Bush campaign; this is Tucker Eskew, speaking on behalf of the Bush campaign.

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