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The apparent end of Al Gore’s legal fight in Florida had weary lawyers Wednesday hunting for new business, proud of the historic role they played in the presidential campaign. “It’s our system and it works. It’s better than being decided in the streets,” said Greenerg Traurig’s Barry Richard, a lawyer for George W. Bush. “I happen to believe fervently in the importance of the legal system. Here we use it rather than guns like other countries do,” Gore lawyer John D.C. Newton II, of Tallahassee’s Berger Davis & Singerman, said. For weeks, largely middle-aged lawyers have pulled all-nighters in a college town, eating on the run and rushing from courthouse to courthouse blazing a legal trail capped by a historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling late Tuesday. By Wednesday, dozens of lawsuits had exhausted their run. By 6 p.m., the top item among more than 250 presidential election items on the Florida Supreme Court Web site was one titled, “Suggestion of Mootness.” It referred to legal arguments filed Wednesday saying a case challenging absentee ballots in Bay County was now moot because the U.S. Supreme Court ruling would prevent the results from being changed after Dec. 12. Lawyers agreed that the notoriously slow wheels of justice had spun swiftly for the last month in Florida. “The judicial system has done itself proud,” Newton said. “Basically what we have seen is 10 years of litigation compressed into two or three weeks. Issues of this magnitude often linger in the courts for years.” Almost free of the presidential litigation, Richard said he was meeting this past Wednesday with a potential new client and catching up on work that came to a halt when he received his first call from the Bush campaign a day after the Nov. 7 election. Gore lawyer David Boies was asleep at his Armonk, N.Y., home after the vice president’s legal team worked through the night exploring his legal options. At midmorning, Gore decided to suspend the legal battle in Florida and to address the nation on Wednesday. “If asked to, we could resume activity. We don’t anticipate that,” Gore attorney W. Dexter Douglass, of the Douglass Law Firm, said in late morning. Douglass, a lawyer for 46 years, said he was disappointed. “You always want to end where you feel that you’ve accomplished your mission.” Richard said the Bush campaign had instructed lawyers to stay quiet. “It was a conscious decision by the campaign that they didn’t want anyone, in particular lawyers, out making any statement, much less declaring victory,” he said. “There was the desire to give the Gore camp some space to decide where they wanted to go without having half a dozen people from the Bush team in their face.” The legal work mostly done, lawyers and judges will find their work studied as closely as the chads on ballots rejected by computerized vote-counting machines. Emotions over the legal fight continue to run high, with a group of three Republicans pledging to raise $1 million to try to oust a Florida Supreme Court justice who they thought was trying to change Florida election laws from the bench. Newton said harsh reactions to the twists and turns of a legal road were unfair and showed the kind of paranoia that led to McCarthyism, an era a half century ago when accusers pointed fingers at suspected communists and their “fellow travelers.” For Newton, the legal work for Gore had to be handled amid a personal crisis, after he learned his mother had suffered a heart attack. On Sunday, Gore telephoned her at a Sebring, Fla., hospital and wished her well. “Things like that make you feel warm about a person,” he said. “He’s like any client. You wish them the best and appreciate the human side of litigation.” Copyright 2000 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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