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Supreme Court quietly ends suit over Cheney's residence


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The U.S. Supreme Court, perhaps weary - or wary - from its traumatic role in deciding the presidential election, has refused to hear a challenge to the vice presidential election.

On Jan. 5, the high court quietly denied a petition to hear arguments on whether Dick Cheney was legally an inhabitant of Wyoming on Election Day, as he claimed, even though he lived and worked in Dallas.

The denial was the end of the road for a constitutional issue raised by a Boca Raton, Fla., lawyer and pushed through the federal court system by attorneys for three Texas voters.

They argued that Bush and Cheney couldn't accept the 32 electoral votes from Texas because the 12th Amendment forbids electors from casting Electoral College votes for both presidential and vice presidential candidates from their own state - an early 1800s power-grab preventative.

"That [the Supreme Court refusal] was no surprise," said Lawrence Caplan, the Boca Raton corporate and tax lawyer who filed the suit originally in Miami. "The decision was made at the trial court level."

A conservative Republican judge in Dallas rejected the plaintiffs' arguments, as did a three-member panel of judges - two chosen by former President George Bush and one by former President Ronald Reagan - on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

"We were absolutely right on the law," said Fort Worth lawyer William Berenson, who filed the suit in Texas after a Florida federal judge denied jurisdiction.

Cheney tried to avoid the 12th Amendment issue by moving his voter registration and driver license from Texas to Wyoming in July, just before Bush announced him as his running mate. Cheney once represented Wyoming in Congress and still owned a house in Jackson, Wyo., as well as in McLean, Va.

He moved to Texas in the early 1990s to head the Halliburton Co. oil conglomerate.

The 12th Amendment inhabitance clause had never been raised in a presidential election, and lawyers involved in the challenge say the Electoral College provision may be unenforceable now.

"If you can change the state of your inhabitance within 3 1/2 months, what's the use?" said James A. Jones of Dallas. "Everybody looked at this with a wink and a nod."

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