Disbursements for Franken

While the MN Supreme Court deliberates on Norm Coleman's latest appeal, the Election Contest Court addressed and resolved the issue of disbursements; the monetary reimbursement of court associated fees. The legal process began shortly after the ECC declared Franken the victor with the first disbursement filing arriving on April 28th from the Franken campaign; just 15 days after the court's final judgment.

The Franken document totaled 394 pages with 384 pages of exhibits. The first ten pages contained the body of the filing while the remaining 384 pages, of exhibits, were found within a gray three ring binder. The digitization of the exhibit portion was just completed this morning by the Ramsey County Court Administration Office. Prior to purchasing the first ten pages, and then later receiving the exhibits from a Ramsey County Court Administrator, no portion of this document could be publicly accessed without making a physical trip to the Ramsey County Court House. The entire document has been converted to PDF for public consumption below with the highlights excerpted:

David L. Lillehaug, being duly sworn, on oath says that he is one of the attorneys for Contestee Al Franken ("Contestee") in the above entitled action and certifies that he has investigated the costs and disbursements claimed herein, and that the following is a true statement of the taxable costs and disbursements incurred by Contestee; and that each and every item thereof has actually and necessarily been paid or incurred in this action. Documents supporting each of Contestees' costs and disbursements are attached.

Statutory Costs                           $205.50 
   (Minn. Stat. § 549.02, subd. 1)	
Court Filing Fees                       $1,130.00 
   (Minn. Stat. § 357.021) (Tab A)	
Deposition Transcripts of Testifying    $7,315.30 
   Witnesses (Minn. Stat. § 357.31)	
   (Tab B)	
Written Deposition Transcripts            $812.50 
   Entered Into Evidence 	
   (Minn. Stat § 357.31) (Tab C)	
Deposition Transcripts Entered          $3,200.70 
   Into Evidence	
   (Minn. Stat. § 357.31) (Tab D)	
Trial Transcripts                      $35,382.55 
   (Abraham v, County of Hennepin, 	
   622 N.W.2d 121, 129)	
   (Minn. Ct. App. 2001) (Tab E)	
Trial Exhibits                         $26,576.38 
   (Minn. Stat. §§ 357.31	
   and 357.315) (Tab F)	
Data Practice Requests/Subpoenas       $59,078.89 
   (Minn. Slat. § 357.31) (Tab G)	
Trial Technology & Equipment            $6,031.23 
   (Minn. Stat. § 549.04) (Tab H)	
Photocopying & Service of Trial Motions $2,152.51 
   (Minn. Stat. § 549.04) (Tab I)	
Trial Subpoenas & Witness Fees (Tab J) $19,625.07

Total Costs and Disbursements         $161,510.63 

Dated: April 28, 2009

Source: Contestee's Bill of Costs and Disbursements via VoteForAmerica.net [PDF] [Exhibits: 394 Pages, 12.7 MB, PDF]

The list above contains the itemized cost for each subheading for which the Franken campaign is seeking reimbursements from the losing party; in this case, the Coleman campaign. It's also pertinent to note that the Franken campaign did not provide a rational for why any item should be reimbursed; they were simply presenting the ECC with a probable list of expenditures which they believe qualify for reimbursement.

On another note, the projector used during the ECC trial was actually provided by the Franken campaign. The State of Minnesota does not provide a projector for use in their most prestigious court room; this is absolutely astonishing to me. I also found it humorous that the Franken campaign made a roughly $600 purchase of printing related goods from BestBuy (on page 329); BestBuy was the 14th largest corporate supporter to Norm Coleman according to OpenSecrets.org for the period from 2007-2008.

The Coleman campaign then responded to Franken's list of applicable expenditures on May 8th by providing their rationale for why some of the listed items do not qualify for compensation. The introduction and conclusion of their opposition is excerpted below with the accompanying PDF as published on the MNCourts website on May 21st:

I. Introduction

Contestants Cullen Sheehan and Norm Coleman (collectively, "Contestants"), by and through the undersigned counsel, hereby object to Contestee Al Franken's ("Contestee") Bill of Costs and Disbursements, notice of which Contestee served May 6, 2009. Contestee has not provided sufficient detail and/or documentation from which to determine the basis of many of the costs he identifies and the purpose for which they were incurred. Nor has he provided a sufficient explanation as to whether the costs claimed were necessary or reasonable, and it is his burden to do so. Accordingly, this Court should disallow the taxation of costs and disbursements to the Contestants to the extent Contestee has inadequately described his costs or it deems them unnecessary or unreasonable.


III. CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, Contestants respectfully request that this Court disallow Contestee's costs and disbursements to the extent he has improperly classified them as "costs," inadequately described them, or failed to justify them as necessary and reasonable.

Dated: May 8, 2009

Source: Contestants Objections to Contestees Bill of Costs and Disbursements via MNCourts.gov [PDF]

Unsurprisingly, the Coleman campaign essentially argued that the Franken campaign did not adequately provide needed detail. The brunt of their argument can be summarized with the following quote from the third page, "[t]he burden is on the prevailing party [Franken] to show that its claimed costs are necessary and reasonable." The Coleman campaign also took issue with the expedited status of the many transcripts and witness filing fees that the Franken campaign incurred. From a details point of view, the Coleman filing did not contain any attached exhibits or material evidence supporting any of their claims.

The Franken campaign responded on May 13th in 9 pages by addressing each of their claims and Coleman's associated refutations. The Coleman campaign did not refute each item as the Franken campaign noted $5,392 worth of requested disbursements lacking objections. The introduction and conclusion of Franken's response is excerpted below as posted on the MNCourts site on May 21st:

Contestee Al Franken ("Contestee") respectfully submits that his costs should be awarded and in the full amount requested pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P. 54.04. Contestee has submitted a sworn affidavit and numerous invoices documenting costs and disbursements necessarily incurred, as required. Contestants have submitted no affidavit in response. Nor have they suggested that the total amount requested is unreasonable for a complex, seven-week, exhibit-intensive trial. Instead, they raise a series of ill-founded objections, all of which should be rejected. Contestee's costs were reasonably incurred, necessary to the defense of Contestants' lawsuit, and are fully recoverable under Rule 54.


For all of these reasons, Contestee submits that the full amount itemized in the Bill of Costs and Disbursements should be taxed to Contestants. The costs were reasonably incurred, necessary for the presentation of relevant and admissible evidence at trial, and should be awarded to Contestee as the prevailing party in this action pursuant to Rule 54.04.

Dated: May 13, 2009

Source: Contestees Response to Contestants Objections to Bill of Costs and Disbursements via MNCourts.gov [PDF]

The ECC issued their ruling today by awarding the Franken campaign roughly two-thirds of their requested disbursements. The publicly available filing from the ECC is fairly terse and without details; the entire document is quoted below:

You are hereby notified that a judgment has been entered in the above entitled matter Pursuant to The Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order for Judgment, Judge Elizabeth A. Hayden, Judge Kurt J. Marben and Judge Denise D. Reilly dated April 13, 2009.

Judgment Information

Entered Date: April 14, 2009
Debtor(s): Cullen Sheehan; Norm Coleman.
Creditor(s): At Franken

Monetary Award:
Monetary Amount: $94,783.15

A true and correct copy of this notice has been served by mail upon the parties. Please be advised that notices sent to attorneys are sent to the lead attorney only.

***Pursuant to MSA 548.09, Judgment shall be docketed upon the filing of an Affidavit of Identification of Judgment Debtor***

Note: Costs and interest will accrue on any money judgment amounts from the date of entry until the judgment is satisfied in full.

Dated: June 10, 2009

Source: Notice of Entry of Judgment Taxation of Costs via MNCourts.gov [PDF]

The ECC order appears to retroactively take effect on April 14th and requires the Coleman campaign to pay $94,783.15 in reimbursements to the Franken campaign. I am unsure as to when the "date of entry" officially begins; the interest rate on any delinquent payments is also not explicitly given. The ECC may have also provided additional documentation that has not yet been made available.

A decision from the MN Supreme Court is still pending, but according to John Kostouros the Director of Communications for the Judicial Branch, their opinion "will be released during normal business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday)." Until this unknown date occurs, political posturing will continue as several outside groups have filed additional lawsuits relating to the MN Senate Election. While the outcome rests solely in the hands of the MN Supreme Court, the battle for public opinion never ends.

I'll try to detail these auxiliary lawsuits later next week, after completing the necessary research.

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