Gore's Supreme Court Brief - Excerpts

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Excerpts of the legal brief the Gore campaign filed in the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

"This dispute over the Florida Supreme Courts interpretation of the Florida Election Code is a state-law case that, despite its undoubted importance, does not belong in federal court. The process legislatively adopted by Florida for resolving disputes regarding the appointment of electors includes state judicial review. Principles of federalism counsel strongly against interference by this Court, or any federal court, in that process. The federal claims purportedly presented by petitioner are insubstantial." (Page 11.)

"The text-oriented canons of construction on which the Florida Supreme Court relied are garden variety interpretive rules "designed as shortcuts to the discovery of the legislature's true intent." They are "commonsensical" linguistic and syntactic guides for finding meaning in statutory text as illuminated by "principles that involve predictions as to what the legislature must have meant, or probably meant, by employing particular statutory language."

Such canons effectuate the legislation's purpose; they do not create new law. Hence, this Court has recognized that employing these canons does not constitute forbidden judicial lawmaking, for they are merely "part of the established background of legal principles against which all enactments are adopted, and which all enactments (absent contrary indication) are deemed to accept." ... Nor, of course, were these canons of construction newly minted by the Florida Supreme Court. Long before the instant election, that court was established as the supreme expositor of Florida law." (Page 17.)

Read the entire brief here.
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"Construing Section 5 to permit but not require States to avail themselves of its safe harbor avoids any such intrusion upon the State's own internal allocation of power and hence upon its fundamental attributes of sovereignty.

At a minimum, this Court has required congressional intent to be quite clear before it may upset the usual constitutional balance of federal and state powers. ... Section 5 does not set forth a mandate with such clarity and accordingly should be construed in the manner most favorable to the preservation of Florida's right to structure its own internal separation of powers as it sees fit namely, as a safe harbor that allows but does not require any state to conform to the procedures set forth in Section 5." (Page 30.)

"There is no serious argument that the Florida Supreme Court's decision, even if retroactive, was unconstitutionally "arbitrary or irrational." Unlike a case such as Eastern Enterprises, in which particular companies were isolated by Congress to bear retroactively an enorous and unexpected financial burden arguably beyond any reasonable expectation, the Florida Supreme Court's decision applies entirely evenhandedly to all counties and candidates.

Moreover, not even petitioner Bush challenges the principal undercurrents supporting the State Supreme Court's decision: the state constitutional right to have one's vote counted and the virtue of reconciling competing statutory provisions. At bottom, all petitioner can really claim is that, in his view, the Florida Supreme Court got Florida law wrong. But a "mere error of state law is not a denial of due process." (Page 48.)