After having denounced the Florida Supreme Court as a corrupt and dishonest kangaroo court long before its lawless ruling earlier this week, I feel a kind of relief that they didn't prove me wrong. Still it's breathtaking how totally detached from any sort of legal reasoning its decision is.
While taking a sledgehammer to the law, this Warren Court on steroids insisted it was engaging in a delicate and serious balancing analysis, affording due concern to competing interests.
Except that -- as fate would have it, that's not their job. The Florida Legislature had already engaged in a balancing test. And it came to a different conclusion.
Taking into account many and various factors -- finality, accuracy, sore losers demanding interminable recounts and so on -- the lawmaking body resolved that counties would be permitted to indulge in all the recounting they please, but they had to have their election returns in seven days after the election. That scheme was enacted into law, signed by the governor and is now known as a "law."
But Al Gore lost the election, and then lost the recount, and then lost the absentee ballot returns, and finally lost all the manual recounts that could be completed within seven days. On day seven -- the last day for election returns to be counted -- Al Gore was still the loser. So he asked the Florida Supreme Court to give him more time to keep recounting, relying on Bill Daley's genetic vote-counting skills to eventually make Gore the winner.
The problem was that pesky seven-day deadline (known as the "law"). Gore's lawyers marched into the Florida Supreme Court and asked it to abrogate the unambiguous seven-day deadline put on the books by the other two branches of government. This was not a matter of interpreting a law, or resolving a conflict, or filling in a blank space in the law. What Gore requested, and what the kangaroo court granted, was nothing but a judicial coup.
The legal sophistry used to paper over the court's defiant ruling was -- as Gore had argued -- that since the law permits recounts, it must permit recounts to go on and on and on, until the loser can finally steal enough votes to win or the whole country dies of exhaustion. Q.E.D.
Manual recounts are, admittedly, permitted by Florida law. That just doesn't happen to mean there's no deadline. Al Gore may as well have argued that because there's Christmas shopping, there's no such thing as Christmas. You can shop all you want, but Christmas imposes a deadline. Florida counties can indulge in recounts to their heart's desire, but seven days after the election is the deadline.
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