Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Before Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist let oral arguments begin on Dec. 11 in what would be the culminating appeal in the 2000 battle for the White House, he thanked the lawyers for “exemplary briefing under very trying circumstances.” The chief justice isn’t usually so complimentary, but he knew good lawyering when he saw it. So did we. Throughout the five-week election ordeal, despite complaints about lawyers hijacking the election, lawyers acquitted themselves admirably — the reason we named the Bush and Gore legal teams Lawyers of the Year. As litigation mounted and deadlines came and went, both sides created ad hoc law firms. They pulled all-nighters, ate stale food and worked in makeshift offices in Tallahassee, Fla., alongside lawyers they had never met and had no time to get to know. “You had power partners at major firms doing cite checks at 3 a.m.,” says the Bush campaign’s chief counsel, Benjamin Ginsberg. “The average age of people pulling all-nighters is probably the highest it’s ever been in the history of jurisprudence.” William Van Alstyne, a noted constitutional law scholar at Duke University Law School, read most of the briefs in the litigation and says that the overall quality was “astoundingly good.” “I read lots of briefs in the Supreme Court every year, and most lawyers have a minimum of 60 days to prepare, and on average, they are not as good as these,” he adds. “If there is anything that will remove the taint of the O.J. Simpson debacle on the legal profession, it’s the lawyering that we saw in Florida,” says Heather Gerken, a Harvard Law School professor who specializes in election and constitutional law. THE GORE TEAM David Boies, who represented the U.S. government in its successful antitrust case against Microsoft, only enhanced his reputation in representing Vice President Gore before the Leon County Circuit Court, the Florida Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court and even the Broward County canvassing board during the initial recount phase. Boies, of Armonk, N.Y.’s Boies, Schiller & Flexner, was joined by Ronald Klain, on leave from O’Melveny & Meyers and a longtime top aide to the vice president, who served as general counsel for Gore. Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, also from O’Melveny, played a senior adviser role. Among other senior Gore lawyers involved in planning strategy was a triumvirate of South Florida attorneys: Mitchell Berger of Fort Lauderdale’s Berger Davis & Singerman, a longtime Gore friend who played a key role in coordinating personnel during the recounts and helping oversee tasks for the contest trial before Judge N. Sanders Sauls; Kendall Coffey of Miami’s Coffey, Diaz & O’Naghten, a former U.S. attorney in Miami who helped oversee recount efforts in Miami-Dade County and was a co-counsel in the contest trial; and Benedict Kuehne of Fort Lauderdale’s Sale & Kuehne, who helped oversee recount efforts in Palm Beach County and was also a co-counsel during the trial. Other key strategists and litigators included W. Dexter Douglass of Tallahassee’s The Douglass Law Firm; Jeffrey Robinson of Washington, D.C.’s Baach Robinson & Lewis; and Stephen Zack of Miami’s Zack Kosnitzky, who provided the most electric moment during the contest trial when he impeached a witness with a document retrieved on the Internet during that trial. Harvard’s constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe, a key legal adviser, argued the first U.S. Supreme Court case over whether the Florida Supreme Court violated federal law when it changed the certification date. Teresa Roseborough of Atlanta’s Sutherland Asbill & Brennan argued the three cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and, along with Andrew Pincus of Washington, D.C., was a key brief-writer. THE BUSH TEAM On the Republican side, Barry Richard of the Tallahassee office of Miami’s Greenberg Traurig had his national coming-out party in this case. As lead Florida counsel for Governor Bush, he began the case as a well-known constitutional law expert in Florida and ended it with a national reputation for compelling advocacy. He celebrated his fourth wedding anniversary by arguing against recounts before the Florida Supreme Court and for the inclusion of 15,000 absentee ballots in a case from Seminole County. Gov. Bush’s main point man, former Secretary of State James Baker of Baker Botts, and Ginsberg of Washington, D.C.’s Patton Boggs brought in Theodore Olson of the D.C. office of Los Angeles’ Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to head the federal litigation. An attorney with deep Republican roots, Olson argued both U.S. Supreme Court cases for the Bush team and convinced the high court to reverse the Florida Supreme Court in the winning case. Just before Thanksgiving, as the contest trial approached, the Republicans realized that they needed a “dream team” of litigators, Ginsberg says, so they brought in four senior lawyers: Fred Bartlit Jr. and Philip Beck of Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott and Daryl Bristow and G. Irvin Terrell of Baker Botts. In textbook cross-examination, Beck undermined the credibility of Gore’s only two witnesses in the contest trial. Bristow successfully defended the Bush campaign in the Seminole County case and a similar one from Martin County. Terrell and Bartlit, among other things, played key roles in preparing and defending the contest action. Michael Carvin of Washington’s Cooper Carvin & Rosenthal argued before the Florida Supreme Court and, along with White & Case’s Timothy Flanagan and Baker Botts’ Kirk Van Tine, played a key role writing briefs. George Terwilliger, also of White & Case, played a key role throughout. Perhaps more telling than the brief-writing and oral advocacy was the civility displayed by the attorneys toward each other. Whether it was delaying a witness so that the other side could prepare or producing a witness promptly for a deposition, there was an air of cooperation and dignity despite the breakneck speed and incredibly high stakes. Richard says that’s what happens when you get lawyers at the top of their profession. Others thought it was the solemnity of the case. “The vice president set a tone,” Kuehne says. “We had an election and the election results need to be determined, and we’re going to do this the right way.” On Dec. 8, about three hours before the Florida Supreme Court temporarily reversed the fate of the election and ordered a recount, Richard and Boies were huddled briefly at an outdoor cafe in downtown Tallahassee, deep in discussion — about their respective twin sons. They traded stories about premature births and promised to get together when it was all over. They actually seemed to like each other. “It’s almost like you wish what has gone on in Tallahassee could have gone on in Washington,” says Steve Uhlfelder, a senior partner at Holland & Knight who observed the proceedings closely as an analyst for ABC news. “It’s been striking how civil it’s been.”

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.