Florida Election Enters Courtroom

A federal judge yesterday rejected Gov. George W. Bush's petition to halt manual recounts of the presidential balloting in four predominately Democratic Florida counties.

Heading the legal team of Vice President Al Gore '69 was Tyler Professor of Constitutional Law Laurence H. Tribe '62, who is frequently mentioned as a possible Gore nominee to the Supreme Court.

The decision capped an extraordinary day of legal wrangling over the ballot count in Florida. The state's 25 electoral votes will likely determine the winner of last Tuesday's presidential election.

Bush has a 388-vote lead in Florida according to the latest results of an unofficial tally conducted by the Associated Press, but U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks' ruling clears the way, at least temporarily, for the hand recounts to continue.

Earlier in the day, however, Katherine Harris, the Republican Florida secretary of state, announced that all tallying of votes in the state must finish by 5 p.m. today. Harris' move is a major roadblock for Gore, as Democrats say three of the manual recounts that they requested are unlikely to be completed by that time.

Gore's camp has joined a lawsuit in state court to fight Harris's decision, asking that the Florida extend the deadline for the manual recounts. Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher described the deadline as "arbitrary" and intended to "frustrate the hand count."

The legal battles seem far from finished. Middlebrooks said he expects Republicans to appeal his decision allowing the hand recount. But he agreed with the Gore team's argument that Bush's suit was a matter for state rather than federal courts.

Tribe was caught in the spotlight yesterday, with even his comings and goings from the courthouse captured live on TV. His staff said yesterday that he is expected to appear on today's "Good Morning America."