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Presidential Election Trials: 2000

Manual Recounts Requested, Manual Recounts Begin, Florida Supreme Court Rules, An Hour And A Half In WashingtonNovember 9 Thursday

Plaintiff: Al Gore
Defendants: George W. Bush, Katherine Harris
Chief Lawyers for Plaintiff: David Boies, W. Dexter Douglas, Bruce Rogow, Laurence H. Tribe, Stephen Zack
Chief Defense Lawyers: Philip Beck, Benjamin L. Ginsberg, Theodore B. Olson, Barry Richard, George Terwilliger (Bush); Joseph P. Klock, Jr. (Harris)
Judges: Leon County, Florida, Circuit Court: Terry P. Lewis, N. Sanders Sauls; Broward County, Florida, Circuit Court: John Miller; U.S. District Court: Donald Middlebrooks; Supreme Court of the State of Florida: Charles T. Wells, Harry Lee Anstead, Major B. Harding, R. Fred Lewis, Barbara J. Pariente, Peggy A. Quince, Leander J. Shaw, Jr.; Supreme Court of the United States: William H. Rehnquist, Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony M. Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter, John Paul Stevens, Clarence Thomas
Places: Atlanta, Georgia; Miami and Tallahassee, Florida; Washington, D.C.
Dates of Hearings and Trials: November 11-13, 2000 (Judge Middlebrooks); November 14, 2000 (Judge Lewis); November 14, 2000 (Judge Miller); November 15-16, 2000 (Florida Supreme Court); November 16-17, 2000 (U.S. Court of Appeals, Atlanta); November 17, 2000 (Judge Lewis); November 20-21, 2000 (Florida Supreme Court); December 1-4, 2000 (U.S. Supreme Court); December 2-4, 2000 (Judge Sauls); December 7-8, 2000 (Florida Supreme Court); December 9-12, 2000 (U.S. Supreme Court)

SIGNIFICANCE: After all the dates of hearings and trials and appeals, with all their specifics of fact and expressions of opinion, have long been forgotten, the world will still know that the 36 days of the 2000 presidential election trials amount to but one significance: The rule of law endures. The extraordinary U.S. system of legal institutions—a system, someone once said, "designed by geniuses so it could be run by idiots"—maintains its strength regardless of political pressures.

It all began on election day, Tuesday, November 7, 2000. That evening, before polls were closed in all 50 of the United States or even Florida's western panhandle, television news reporters projected Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore as the winner in the state of Florida over Republican candidate George W. Bush. Later, they retracted the projection. By early next morning, they said the lead in Florida hinged on a few hundred votes, and by this time it was clear that Florida's 25 electoral votes would be decisive in the national outcome. With several news organizations declaring Bush the winner, Gore called the Texas governor to concede the election. Then, upon hearing later projections, he retracted the concession before dawn on Wednesday. A day-by-day, court-by-court drama followed.

November 9 Thursday

Forty-eight hours after the polls closed, a still-incomplete count gave Bush the lead by 1,784 votes. Election officials in 67 Florida counties ordered recounts of their machine votes.

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