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David Lillehaug’s new specialty: election recount law

David Lillehaug’s new specialty: election recount law

In 2008, the United States Senate race in Minnesota was certified with Republican incumbent Norm Coleman holding a 215-vote margin over Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate Al Franken. Minneapolis litigator David Lillehaug of Fredrikson & Byron led Franken’s legal team during the ensuing automatic recount that led to the DFLer’s victory.

“When we were done with the last matter, people said to me, ‘Well, now you have a new specialty,'” he says. “And my response was, ‘The next one will be in 40 years and by then I’ll be in the nursing home.'”

Lillehaug’s estimate was 20 times too large–he’s currently working on behalf of DFLer Mark Dayton in the court-ordered recount of the state’s 2010 gubernatorial election. He feels good about his client’s chances. Going into the recount, Dayton holds an 8,755-vote lead over his opponent Tom Emmer, a margin far beyond what has ever been toppled in a recount, Lillehaug says. “Let me put it this way. We are highly confident that Mark Dayton won the election,” he says. “Now our job is to protect that.”

Meanwhile, he’s enjoying the change of pace from normal litigation. “Election matters often proceed at the speed of light,” says Lillehaug, who has been listed in Minnesota Super Lawyers every year since 2003. “It gets the adrenaline flowing.”

Fast also means busy. “I’ve never worked harder than I did [during the Franken recount,]” he says. “Most days were 7:30 in the morning straight through until 10:30 at night. One Sunday I did have dinner with my family and I said that we should go and get a Christmas tree the next day. My daughter looked at me and said, ‘Dad. We have a Christmas tree. It’s been up for three days in the living room.'”

It’s safe to say that he hopes he’ll get a say in the Lillehaug family Christmas tree this year. “I’m hoping we don’t go to that length in 2010,” he says. “I’d be very pleased if Mark Dayton was sworn in as governor on Jan. 3.”

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