December 12, 2017


Ready, Aim ... Hire

Presidential campaign leaders are ready to launch a legal assault should voting problems arise next month.

Pat Dunnigan | 10/1/2004
Four years ago, presidential campaigners were caught off-guard by vote-count problems around the state. Lacking legal representation, they were forced to scramble for lawyers after the fact. This time around, they're taking no chances. Both campaigns have had teams of high-level lawyers on retainer for months ready to represent them in case anything goes amiss during the election next month.

"We've been preparing for quite some time already," says trial lawyer Steve Zack, who is serving as general counsel to the Kerry campaign. "It's completely different," says Zack, of Miami's Boies, Schiller & Flexner. In 2000, Zack's partner, high-profile litigator David Boies, was hired to represent Al Gore, but the call came after the voting fracas.

Among other things, Zack says the legal team is "looking at the law and any issues arising" from new laws passed in the wake of the 2000 debacle.

Zack, like his counterpart on the Bush campaign, Greenberg Traurig partner Hayden Dempsey, a former deputy general counsel to Gov. Jeb Bush, won't identify the full roster, citing the confidential nature of the attorney-client relationship. But both confirm a few key members of the teams.

On the Kerry side, the luminaries include former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, former state Attorney General Bob Butterworth, former Florida Bar President Herman Russomanno of Miami and famed criminal defense lawyer Roy Black.

For the Bush campaign, litigator and constitutional law specialist Barry Richard, a Greenberg Traurig partner in Tallahassee who successfully argued against the Florida Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that would have allowed the re-counting to continue, has agreed to represent the Bush-Cheney ticket again should litigation arise.

"I think most people are assuming there will be some litigation," Richard says, "maybe not of the magnitude of 2000."

Richard says the firm's decision to go Republican was not a partisan one, but one made out of "consideration of professionalism and possibly ethics" since the Bush campaign was a client of the firm in 2000.

Other legal heavyweights on the Bush-Cheney team include Carol Licko, a Miami lawyer and former general counsel to Gov. Bush, Colson Hicks & Eidson partner Roberto Martinez, a former U.S. attorney, and Broad and Cassel Chairman C. David Brown of Orlando.

Florida's biggest firm, Holland & Knight, has decided to play it neutral once again. "We reviewed the policy that we adopted in 2000 after being solicited by both the Bush and Gore campaigns and decided it was best that we reaffirm it," says managing partner Howell Melton. "We won't represent any parties or candidates or election officials in disputes that could arise in connection with the 2004 election."

Tags: Politics & Law, Around Florida, Government/Politics & Law

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