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Wednesday, 13 December, 2000, 12:18 GMT
Analysis: What the ruling means
Supreme Court
The world waits for the court ruling
By Jonathan Marcus and Paul Reynolds

The US Supreme Court effectively dealt the fatal blow to Democrat presidential candidate Al Gore.

The ruling reversed the decision of the Florida Supreme Court which allowed hand recounts.


Because it is evident that any recount seeking to meet the 12 December date will be unconstitutional ... we reverse the judgement of the Supreme Court of Florida ordering the recount to proceed

US Supreme Court ruling
It states that seven of the nine justices agreed that there were constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court, and it remanded the case back to Florida for further proceedings.

By a narrower majority of five to four the court found there was no constitutionally acceptable procedure by which a new recount could take place before the deadline for selection of presidential electors.

The court was worried about possible unequal treatment resulting from differing standards used in the recounts.


Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the law

Justice John Paul Stevens, dissenting
On the event Mr Gore conceded after the ruling but the problem for him was that the Supreme Court did not leave any time for the Florida court to offer a remedy by making statewide standards.

A dissenting justice remarked that the winner of the election might never be known - but the loser was the nation's confidence in a judge as an impartial guardian of the law.

Judging the judiciary

There has been a great deal of misunderstanding about the legal process that has effectively delivered the White House to George Bush - as much in the United States as abroad.

For example, the fact that Al Gore received a majority of the popular vote is a factor that has little relevance in a system based on separate state elections that contribute to an electoral college.

The ruling is scrutinised
The ruling is scrutinised
Some appear to have woken up very late in the day to the notion that much of the American judicial system - including its apex, the Supreme Court itself - rests upon political appointees. Thus the claim from the Gore camp that the justices have essentially made a political decision rather than a legal one.

The deep divisions on the Supreme Court - the judgement was delivered by a five-to-four majority - don't help to legitimise its decision.

The country seemed to be hoping for a judgement of Solomon and they appear to have got something less.


The Supreme Court ruling in fullFull judgement
What the Supreme Court said (PDF file)

Inauguration:

Bush presidency:

PICTURE GALLERIES

Texts and transcripts:

AUDIO VIDEO

TALKING POINT
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