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U.S. Supreme Court Considering Bush Challenge of Florida RecountAired December 11, 2000 - 2:41 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: The United States Supreme Court has heard its oral arguments today, and in the balance, of course, the 43rd president of the United States, more specifically the 25 electors who will cast their ballots for president, formally and officially, and as per the United States Constitution. That is supposed to happen on the 18th of December, though those votes don't actually get counted in the United States Congress until January 6th.
Jeff Greenfield joins us now from New York. Jeff, I would simply come to you with this observation really, and it's from our poll that we took most recently and released last night. And that was that about three-quarters of Americans coming into this day said they expected the United States Supreme Court to act fairly.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I think it's one of the abiding facts of American public life that even though the Supreme Court from time to time becomes a very controversial institution because of its decisions -- school prayer, abortion, segregation, criminal -- rights of criminal suspects -- there is an underlying feeling that the court is fair. And part of it is what we think of as courts. That is, it's -- they're not, or at least aren't supposed to be political. They don't come on television and beg for votes.
In fact, I know how much Greta Van Susteren and others want cameras in the courtroom, I would suggest to you one of the reasons people treat the court as a somewhat more noble institution is that it's about the only place in American life that's not on television, and there's an air of mystery about it.
The fact that they're -- you know, they're appointed for life, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that sometimes justices confound the experts -- they'll be appointed by a liberal and they'll vote like a conservative, or vice versa.
So there's something about that institution that, throughout our life, even though it has certainly become controversial, does get the trust of the people.
Now, we should add it has never before been in a position where it has the potential to decide in some sense who the president of the United States is. And one of the questions I think that scholars and political folks will be wondering is, if the court renders a sharply divided decision that in effect says this person will be president, will the public stay with it after that decision is made as well as before it.
SESNO: Jeff, there was tough questioning really for all the attorneys involved. It certainly seemed particularly so, David Boies. But what were your impressions as you heard that hour and a half go by?
GREENFIELD: Well, the first impression was that I'm glad I'm not in law school anymore. This reminds me of some of the harder times I had my first couple years in law school at the hands of one of those professors right out of "The Paper Chase."
This is intellectually about as daunting a challenge as a lawyer can have, because you've got nine people on the court. They don't have to listen to you, they don't have to let you finish a sentence. And they're often coming at you from five different ways at once. So for instance, when you think David Boies had a particularly tough time, for instance, in trying to explain to -- I think it was Justice Scalia, well, if you can do all this in a contest phase, why would anybody in Florida go through a protest phase, and tell us what the standards are.
And if one county has one standard and one county has a different one or even different within counties, how are votes being treated equally, which the Equal Protection Clause seems to imply? And what about this notion that the Florida Supreme Court didn't listen to us when we vacated their first opinion and seemed to go back and play around with words and pretend they were using the state legislature and maybe they weren't?
So this is a -- this is a -- this is a very, very tough road to hoe, and I think it's particularly tough for Mr. Boies, because he already comes into court knowing that five of the nine justices, the majority, are predisposed to rule against him.
SESNO: Jeff Greenfield in New York, thanks.
And so we wait: We wait for the justices to deliberate and of course for them to decide -- and as we wait, as do the candidates and all voters and citizens across the land, and really the world, to see just exactly how this is going to turnout, who may be the next president of the United States, because in this decision rests the enormity of that issue.
I'm Frank Sesno in Washington. BURDEN OF PROOF is next.
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