Tomorrow is going to be a big day in the Minnesota trial: Closing arguments, which will then bring this whole phase of the court proceedings to an end, pending a ruling and subsequent appeals. And what happens next could be very long -- or not.
Lead attorney Joe Friedberg will do the closer for the former Republican Senator, and Franken attorney Kevin Hamilton will be delivering closing arguments for his side.
So what happens next? Hamline University professor David Schultz tells TPM that he now expects the court to probably rule at some point in the first week of April, with a declaration that Al Franken is the winner. From there, this goes into an appeals process at the state Supreme Court that could take perhaps two months -- and then there are the federal courts. So this could take from anywhere between early April, assuming no appeals, to all the way through Labor Day, with June as the ballpark middle figure.
"The lakes'll be fully melted before we have a U.S. Senator -- which is the opposite of when Hell freezes over," said Schultz. "Maybe when Hell thaws out, something like that."
On the other hand, Schultz poses a very
interesting scenario, one that could bring the entire appeals process to a crashing halt and force the granting of a certificate of election.
The election-contest proceeding operates under a loser-pays system -- so if Coleman loses, his campaign committee would have to pay all the legal costs of Team Franken. Those numbers aren't publicly available, but Schultz estimates it at anywhere between $1-3 million.
And it's also normal procedure in such civil cases, Schultz explains, for a losing party that appeals to then be served a court order requiring them to place in escrow the amount for which they are currently liable. So if Franken's lawyers are smart people -- and nobody would doubt that they are -- Schultz sees it as very likely that they would seek to force Coleman's committee to procure millions of dollars up front just so they could start an appeal. "I think it's very likely -- not a certainty but very likely -- a court would agree with that," said Schultz, "for the Coleman campaign to provide the costs and legal fees."
And after some additional legal wrangling, a decision like this could effectively end it: "A one-two combination of asking for the escrow, and having the money dry up because of the credit-card problem, that could very well dictate how far he goes."