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Senate election recount: Coleman files notice of appeal; state Supreme Court hearing likely in May

Early May is the likely timetable for oral arguments now that Norm Coleman, as expected, filed notice today that he wants the state high court to overturn the ruling of the three-judge panel that oversaw the seven-week-long trial.

It will be no earlier than the first week in May before the Supreme Court hears arguments on Norm Coleman’s appeal in the U.S. Senate race.

Or that’s the way it seems now after Coleman, as expected, filed notice today (PDF) that he wants the state high court to overturn the ruling of the three-judge panel that oversaw the seven-week-long trial.

In a limited filing (PDF) with the Minnesota Supreme Court, Coleman this afternoon appealed the rulings of the three-judge panel that declared last week that Al Franken received the most votes and that the 2008 U.S. Senate election was properly conducted.

The state Supreme Court will now set a briefing schedule.

In a statement, Coleman said: “Today, 4,400 Minnesotans have not had their voices heard or their votes counted. The due process and equal protection rights of the people of this state must be upheld regardless of where you live, who you voted for, or what political party you belong to. These are not complex or difficult issues. They are central to our democracy and they speak to the essence of the rights of all people to have their voices heard and their votes counted.  The Minnesota Supreme Court is the right place for these issues to be heard, reviewed, and decided.  And, I believe that the voices of 4,400 Minnesotans hang in the balance, and with it, their rights to due process and equal protection.”

Meanwhile, the Franken side will file a motion Tuesday morning to expedite the process.

Franken’s side wants the Coleman team to have its brief in by Monday, with Franken’s reply by May 2 and Coleman’s reply to Franken’s side by May 4.

Then, a hearing would be set.

Franken lead lawyer Marc Elias shot down all of Coleman’s claims in the notice of appeal, calling them “same old, same old.”

Elias noted that in the five key appeals claims, the Coleman side is actually seeking to “uncount” votes already counted.

He pointed to the matter of the 132 Minneapolis votes. Elias called that “a flat-out effort — no questions asked — to disenfranchise 132 voters.”

He added: “When it comes to disenfranchisement, no one holds a candle to the legal team put together” by Coleman.

“We have the death throes of the Coleman legal effort,” Elias said. “At some point, you have to accept the reality for what it is … Al Franken won the election and he will be certified the winner.”

Ben Ginsberg, Coleman’s chief legal spokesman, said, “We do believe that the district court got it wrong on the law … Their decision disenfranchises many Minnesotans.”

Among the issues Coleman is appealing are those that were common themes throughout the seven-week-long trial. The Coleman side argues that:

• There were equal protection violations because similar ballots were ruled legal in some counties and precincts but not in others.

• The trial court’s decision barred similar categories of absentee votes from being counted that were included on Election Day.

• The court was wrong in not allowing inspections of precincts rolls in instances of potential double counting, and in allowing the counting of 132 missing ballots in Minneapolis.

Another Coleman lawyer, James Langdon, said his side is hopeful of a more favorable reception when making its case before the Minnesota Supreme Court because trial judges Elizabeth Hayden, Kurt Marben and Denise Reilly “may have been constrained” by past Minnesota Supreme Court cases. Now, in his view, the state Supremes can make new law.

Ginsberg, a longtime spokesman for Republican Party causes, joined the reporters’ conference call from Europe and, when asked, joked that he was in a “secret and undisclosed location.”

But there’s no secret about what’s to come: another key legal battle back in Courtroom 300, where the trial was held and where the Supreme Court usually conducts its business.