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All Florida counties but one make recount deadline

The deadline was reached for every Florida county to submit its machine recount results for the governor and senate races with all but one county meeting it - Palm Beach County. CNN's Ryan Nobles reports.

Posted: Nov 16, 2018 2:32 PM
Updated: Nov 16, 2018 3:04 PM

A federal courthouse is rarely a place for "Star Trek" references. But Chief US District Judge Mark Walker isn't a normal jurist.

Walker, a colorful and relaxed judge who was nominated to his post by President Barack Obama in 2012, now finds himself at the center of Florida's election recount, hearing at least eight cases on the matter.

In a quiet, monotone courthouse not known for abundant color, he stands out.

RELATED: Florida's Senate race heads to a hand recount

Sporting a bow tie over his black robes during marathon hearings on Wednesday and Thursday, Walker played devil's advocate with both sides of the courtroom, probing each argument with a mix of legalese, current events and humor. He lamented the county's current lack of faith in democracy, assured the courtroom that he was the most tired person there and compared lawyers representing Florida's and Republican interests to the three bears from "Goldilocks and the Three Bears."

"They are kind of like the little bear," he said of their arguments, with a smile, "They are looking for it to be just right."

A sprinkling of humor

Walker's humor belies his importance in Florida politics, but it has been well received even by the sometimes-humorless lawyers, who often crack smiles at Walker's quips or even laugh.

And Walker is willing to keep a joke going. He referenced Tribbles -- the rabbit-like creatures from "Star Trek" that were known to reproduce exponentially -- when he looked out into his courtroom on Wednesday and saw nearly two dozen lawyers before him. But what some didn't know was that reference was a call back to a joke he had made a day earlier.

"I feel a little bit like Captain Kirk in the episode when the Tribbles started to multiply," he had said about the number of lawsuits on a conference call earlier in the week.

The jokes continued Thursday morning, when Walker, speaking to lawyers on yet another conference call, hypothetically said he would rule in favor of the attorneys for Democrats and watch Republican heads explode like he saw in a movie once.

"I'll not make that movie reference," he said quickly, moving along.

Minutes later, at the end of the call, he assured all those listening that he was referencing the "Kingsman" movie series. (He ended by saying he was hoping that didn't actually happen to the lawyers.)

When he asked the supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County, Susan Bucher, for a guess as to when she would be able to finish the manual and hand recount in the Senate race, he did it with a imaginative caveat: "Godzilla could come out of the ocean at Palm Beach ... barring that, when do you expect to finish?"

For some judges, references like this would be uncommon -- even bizarre. But Walker has sprinkled his hearings with an array of colorful comments, much to the enjoyment of political aides who think the legal fight has become a slog.

When a lawyer on the Republican side made an argument about standing, Walker said it didn't pass the smell test and that he felt like he was having his face pushed into a "cow patty."

During a hearing about how a voter's signature on a ballot may not match the signature they have on file, Walker suggested a hypothetical: What should my grandmother, who has Parkinson's and couldn't make the signature she once did, do if she wanted to vote by mail? After lawyers attempted to answer the question, Walker interjected to inform them that his grandmother was actually dead.

When he ruled on that case, Walker opened with a current events reference: the National Football League. "Consider the game of football," he wrote. "Football fans may quibble about the substance of the rules, but no one quibbles that rules are necessary to play the game."

Long days on the job

Walker, in between making jokes, has been working incredibly long hours. After two other federal judges recused themselves in election matters, nearly every legal question on the recount fell to Walker, forcing his staff and him to work until midnight for multiple days.

That has clearly put everyone -- including Walker -- on edge, and the judge has become testy with lawyers he thinks are wasting time.

When a lawyer began asking an obvious question, Walker jumped in: "Let's ask something other than a common-sense question." When the lawyer continued, asking Supervisor of Elections for Leon County Mark Earley a question that had already been asked, Walker hit back hard.

"I understand you are billing by the hour," Walker said curtly. "I recall the question the first time it was asked."

Walker's ties to Florida run deep. Born in the city of Winter Garden, he is what's known as a "double Gator," someone who completed undergraduate and graduate education at the University of Florida. Walker received his BA at the university in 1989 and graduated from the law school in 1992.

Walker began his legal career by clerking with the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals and the Florida Supreme Court before briefly going into private practice. Before he was elevated by Obama in 2012, he served as a judge in the Circuit Court of Florida from 2009 to 2012.

He has a history with one of the central figures in the recount: Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's bid for re-election.

Walker took Scott to task earlier this year when the judge invalidated the state of Florida's ban on allowing felons to vote.

"This Court finds Defendants' reasoning to be nonsensical," Walker wrote in his decision, which referenced something not aging like fine wine and the long lines for Space Mountain, a ride at Disney World. Walker also suggested that Scott's plan was arbitrary.

Walker wrote: "A state cannot re-enfranchise only those felons who are more than six-feet tall, who are blue-eyed, who were born in August, who root for the Florida Gators or who call heads during a coin flip."

During a hearing on Thursday, Walker said he not only held no ill will toward Scott, but he also didn't know the governor.

"Gov. Scott and I don't know each other," Walker said during a hearing in a case over whether the governor should recuse himself from election matters. He then, however, pivoted to some media statements that have questioned the governor.

"And I won't impugn his press secretary's comments," he paused, "about me."

It's become clear during the days of recount challenges that Walker enjoys the give and take of a courtroom, and the gentle ribbing that comes along with his position of power.

When a lawyer from the canvassing board in Palm Beach County said they had made a decision because they were worried about being sued, Walker jumped in with a joke about his caseload.

"I can't imagine," Walker said with a smile, "a lawyer is going to sue over an election."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 30900

Reported Deaths: 1111
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds249840
DeSoto159416
Madison130034
Jones112449
Neshoba98871
Rankin93412
Harrison91211
Lauderdale90979
Forrest86942
Scott77115
Jackson62216
Copiah60215
Washington5849
Leake57819
Holmes55341
Lee54718
Wayne54513
Oktibbeha54126
Warren51518
Yazoo5096
Leflore48751
Grenada4835
Lowndes48313
Lincoln46034
Lamar4587
Pike43112
Monroe40130
Lafayette3914
Sunflower3727
Attala36023
Covington3565
Panola3506
Newton3399
Bolivar33414
Simpson3173
Adams31118
Pontotoc2866
Tate28310
Marion28111
Chickasaw27718
Claiborne27410
Noxubee2638
Jasper2626
Winston2616
Pearl River25432
Clay25010
Marshall2323
Smith21811
Clarke20724
Union2079
Coahoma2016
Walthall1995
Kemper17914
Lawrence1772
Yalobusha1707
Carroll16511
Humphreys1479
Tallahatchie1364
Itawamba1358
Montgomery1322
Calhoun1304
Tippah13011
Hancock12813
Webster12710
Jefferson Davis1114
Prentiss1083
Jefferson1073
Greene1058
Tunica1003
Wilkinson949
Amite912
George883
Tishomingo801
Quitman760
Choctaw744
Alcorn692
Perry664
Stone651
Franklin452
Sharkey370
Benton360
Issaquena91
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 43450

Reported Deaths: 984
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5221152
Montgomery4127103
Mobile4080134
Tuscaloosa228842
Marshall171110
Madison14307
Lee138437
Shelby128423
Morgan11025
Walker93924
Elmore92514
Franklin89514
Dallas8809
Baldwin8649
Etowah73913
DeKalb7195
Butler63328
Chambers62927
Autauga60712
Tallapoosa59169
Russell5520
Unassigned50323
Houston4964
Limestone4950
Lauderdale4906
Lowndes47221
Cullman4524
Pike4295
Colbert3956
St. Clair3822
Coffee3772
Bullock36910
Covington3587
Calhoun3545
Escambia3506
Barbour3492
Hale31121
Talladega3097
Marengo30211
Wilcox2918
Dale2880
Sumter28512
Clarke2746
Jackson2732
Winston2583
Chilton2462
Blount2351
Monroe2352
Pickens2356
Marion22413
Conecuh2097
Randolph2069
Choctaw19512
Macon1949
Bibb1901
Greene1868
Perry1771
Henry1343
Crenshaw1253
Washington1097
Lawrence1080
Cherokee977
Geneva800
Lamar771
Fayette701
Clay652
Coosa581
Cleburne361
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