- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2000

Combined with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling yesterday that remanded the Florida Supreme Court's dubious decision back to that panel for an overhaul, Monday's decision by Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls has put on life support Al Gore's already-shaky claim on the presidency. On issue after issue, from the 10,750 "undervotes" in Miami-Dade County to the 3,300 dimpled ballots in Palm Beach County to Nassau County's relatively minuscule 51 disputed votes, Judge Sauls obliterated every single claim in Mr. Gore's lawsuit contesting the certification of George W. Bush's Florida victory. Rarely has a court victory been so total.
The day began ominously for Mr. Gore when the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Florida Supreme Court's Nov. 21 decision, which rewrote Florida's election law after the Nov. 7 election in violation of federal law and the U.S. Constitution. In effect, the U.S. Supreme Court asked the Florida court its basis for doing so.
"After reviewing the opinion of the Florida Supreme Court," the U.S. Supreme Court said in its unsigned ruling, citing a 1940 Court case, "we find 'that there is considerable uncertainty as to the precise grounds for the decision.'" The U.S. high court concluded that "[t]his is sufficient reason for us to decline at this time to review the federal questions asserted to be present." But the U.S. Supreme Court left no doubt that the legal rationale employed by the Florida Supreme Court in particular, its reliance on the Florida Constitution, which it used in a futile attempt to trump the U.S. Constitution was utterly unacceptable.
Somehow, the Florida Supreme Court must now find some way to convince the U.S. Supreme Court that its decision last month in favor of Mr. Gore took due notice of federal law and the U.S. Constitution. Since its decision clearly violated both, its task will be formidable, if not impossible. It is in this atmosphere that the Florida Supreme Court will, almost assuredly, review Judge Sauls' decision.
In condemning the "two-tiered system" of standards for examining so-called "dimpled" ballots that different Florida counties adopted after the election, in violation of federal law, Judge Sauls introduced the U.S. constitutional issue of "equal protection of the laws." In addition, Judge Sauls declared that Palm Beach County violated Title 3 Section 5 in the federal statutes by changing its "dimple" standard after the election.
Moreover, contrary to a raft of media reports appearing after the U.S. Supreme Court announced on Nov. 24 that it would accept George W. Bush's appeal of the Florida Supreme Court's decision, yesterday's high court ruling explicitly stated that the U.S. Supreme Court had granted certiorari in order to examine in part whether the Florida Supreme Court had "violated the Due Process Clause," which, as it happens, forms the basis of a separate federal suit filed by Mr. Bush that is currently working its way through the federal courts.
While Judge Sauls decimated every single claim Mr. Gore advanced in his contest, the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court effectively put Mr. Gore's principal protector, the Florida Supreme Court, on notice that any attempt to overturn Judge Sauls' ruling will be minutely examined through the lens of federal law and the U.S. Constitution. On all sides and all fronts, Mr. Gore suffered major political and legal defeats yesterday. No amount of spin can change that fact.

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