Friday December 03, 2021

United States Supreme Court In 5-4 Vote Appears To Deliver Presidency To George W. Bush; Concession Tipped From Gore

December 12, 2000

Standing: Ginsburg, Souter, Thomas, Breyer; Seated: Scalia, Stevens, Rehnquist, O'Connor, Kennedy The US Supreme Court has voted to overturn the decision of the Florida Supreme Court to authorise recounts in Florida.

The 5-4 decision was along conservative-liberal lines, with Chief Justice Rehnquist joining with Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy to reverse the decision taken last Friday by the Florida Supreme Court. Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David H. Souter and Stephen G. Breyer were in the minority. A variety of dissenting opinions were issued by the minority on different aspects of the decision.

The Supreme Court majority has found that there were constitutional problems with the manual recounts in Florida, but also found that there was not enough time to fix the problem, given the electoral timetable now ticking away. The Court's ruling was issued at 10pm, just two hours before the end of December 12, the day on which the States are required to certify their electors. The electors cast their votes for President next Monday December 18.

New York Times Front Page, December 13, 2000 The complex decision was initially met with confusion, but is now being widely seen as mortally wounding Vice-President Al Gore's electoral prospects. The Democrat candidate is due to make a statement on Wednesday morning, local time.

The majority opinion says, in part: "Upon due consideration of the difficulties identified to this point, it is obvious that the count cannot be conducted in compliance with the requirement of equal protection and due process without substantial additional work." In its decision, the majority also said:

None are more conscious of the vital limits on judicial authority than are the members of this Court, and none stand more in admiration of the Constitution's design to leave the selection of the President to the people, through their legislatures, and to the political sphere. When contending parties invoke the process of the courts, however, it becomes our unsought responsibility to resolve the federal and constitutional issues the judicial system has been forced to confront.

The judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

Justice John Paul Stevens issued a stinging dissent from the majority opinion:

What must underlie petitioners’ entire federal assault on the Florida election procedures is an unstated lack of confidence in the impartiality and capacity of the state judges who would make the critical decisions if the vote count were to proceed. Otherwise, their position is wholly without merit. The endorsement of that position by the majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today's decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.

I respectfully dissent.

Bush spokesman, James Baker III, has made a subdued statement which appears aimed at making room for Gore to concede:

I have just spoken to Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney. They are, of course, very pleased and gratified that seven justices of the United States Supreme Court agreed that there were constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court.

They wanted me to once again express their appreciation to the fine legal team and the hundreds of volunteers who have worked here in Florida on their behalf, for the last 35 days.

This has been a long and arduous process for everyone involved on both sides.

The Gore campaign Chairman, William Daley, issued a brief statement:

Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are now reviewing the 5-4 decision issued tonight by the Supreme Court of the United States. The decision is both complex and lengthy. It will take time to completely analyze this opinion. We will address the court's decision in full detail at a time to be determined tomorrow.



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