A number of news sources have reported that Emily Murphy of the General Services Administration has failed to sign the document that triggers the presidential transition process.

Can the Biden team get a court order forcing her to sign it?

  • 1
    He can definitely force it as of late January..... Nov 17, 2020 at 20:03

1 Answer 1


Perhaps. The relevant law is assembled into notes on 3 USC 102. The original act of 1963 defines President-elect in this manner:

(c) The terms 'President-elect' and 'Vice-President-elect' as used in this Act shall mean such persons as are the apparent successful candidates for the office of President and Vice President, respectively, as ascertained by the Administrator following the general elections held to determine the electors of President and Vice President in accordance with title 3, United States Code, sections 1 and 2.

There is no specific statutory provision directing the Administrator of the GSA to ascertain who is that President-Elect. The administration is apparently taking a position similar to that taken by the Clinton administration, that states determine who has been elected, and the states have not officially determined who has been elected: nor has a candidate conceded. If a court orders the Administrator to make the ascertainment, I expect that the administration would appeal the ruling up to the Supreme Court. This letter, addressed to the Administrator, gives the legal rationale.

  • 1
    The mention of a Clinton precedent seems to come from the letter from the Republican ranking member. The letter does not mention that, even before the "ascertainment", George Bush was authorized to get the President's Daily Briefing. It would be great for Biden to get that. Nov 17, 2020 at 19:23
  • the quoted letter does not provide any rationale but reference lawsuits that have not shown even a glimmer of facts to support them and of which most have been already been thrown out.
    – Trish
    Nov 17, 2020 at 19:57

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