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Election 2000: U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Review Federal Questions of Lawsuit

Aired December 4, 2000 - 12:36 p.m. ET

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

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Frank Sesno in Washington, and those words you see, issued from the United States Supreme Court -- they are as follows: "After reviewing the opinion, we find there is considerable uncertainty as to the precise grounds for the decision" -- that being from the Florida state Supreme Court, of course. "This is sufficient reason for us to decline to review the federal questions."

That, just one of many points made in the seven-page presentation from the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of George W. Bush versus Palm Beach County Canvassing Board. In that decision, the United States Supreme Court vacates the order of the Supreme Court of Florida, but remands it back for further proceedings, so this case is not yet done by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless, it is a setback in the opinion of many for Al Gore, who is looking for speedy movement through the court system both here in Washington and beyond, of his case.

We should tell you as well that the case we were to hear from out of the courtroom in Florida, as well -- Judge Sanders Sauls on the contest phase of this has been put on hold. We had expected that just about 35 minutes ago. That, now, has been put on hold for at least another hour and a half while that judge studies the Supreme Court opinion.

We have Judge Kogan with us now, if I'm not mistaken.

And I would like very much to ask you your reading of the Supreme Court case. We've heard from Roger Cossack, Greta Van Susteren. They have some differing views as to how definitive this really is: your turn.

GERALD KOGAN, FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE, FLORIDA SUPREME COURT: Well, I think the Supreme Court did not really do us any favor. Actually, all this does, really, is delay further the outcome of this matter.

By vacating the Florida Supreme Court's decision and sending this matter back to them, it really doesn't say what the Florida Supreme Court can do. It may very well be that the U.S. Supreme Court wants the Florida Supreme Court to redo its opinion and more definitely state what the grounds are for its opinion, and then the U.S. Supreme Court would reconsider it. And it may be that they feel that the Florida Supreme Court ought to go ahead and tell all parties concerned that they will now wait for further proceedings in the lower courts. It's really unclear, and it -- to me it's ambiguous as to what they expect.

SESNO: Judge Kogan, in your judgment, then, does this decision today, at least for the moment and officially, restore those -- how many -- 567 votes to George W. Bush? Does it put him back, for the moment, at least, to the 930-vote margin over Al Gore that he first had through the secretary -- the Florida secretary of state certification?

KOGAN: I think you have to say that because, in vacating the Florida Supreme Court order, obviously that's what happens.

SESNO: And what is the effect of that, sir?

KOGAN: Well, really, there's no effect because Bush was ahead then and Bush is still ahead now. So as far as who's going to win the electoral votes in Florida, that issue still has not been completely decided.

SESNO: Judge Kogan, going into and coming out of the United States Supreme Court arguments the other day there was much discussion and much concern that the court, ultimately, would issue a split decision or would not project the sense of unity -- maybe even unanimity -- that the nation needed at this particular time. How are those issues address by what we've gotten today from the court?

KOGAN: Well, basically, you have a unanimous opinion from the court; but still the court is not really deciding this case. It's really kicking it back to the Florida Supreme Court and telling the Florida justices: Redo this opinion, be more concise about your reasons for doing what you did and then send it back to us and we'll reconsider.

SESNO: And Justice Kogan, what is likely to be the case, now -- or the response from the Florida state Supreme Court?

KOGAN: I really don't know. We will just have to wait and see.

SESNO: But it goes back into their courtroom -- into their laps, correct?

KOGAN: That's correct, there's no question about that. And technically they could even sit on this if they want to, but I don't know what they're going to do.

SESNO: Justice Kogan, thanks very much.

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