Litigator, author, and legal analyst, Florida attorney, Kendall Coffey has become an eminent legal practitioner and scholar over his 35-year career. From his unprecedented experience representing the Gore Campaign in the 2000 Election in Florida, to writing the quintessential book on Florida mortgage law, “Foreclosures in Florida,” LexisNexis (2008), the breadth of his knowledge, professional insights, and invaluable expertise are shared with readers within these blog entries. From Kendall Coffey’s words one can recognize the machinations of spin in legal proceedings and see past the dramatics and bluster to the precise issues at hand and their implications.


Recent Blog Posts

Kendall Coffey on the Adam Matos Trial

Posted by on 4:33 pm in Blog Entry: Criminal Cases | Comments Off on Kendall Coffey on the Adam Matos Trial

Kendall Coffey spoke with Heather Hansen from the Law & Crime Network about the Adam Matos murder case. 32-year-old Adam Matos has been accused of quadruple murder. Matos’ ex- girlfriend, her parents, and her new boyfriend were found stacked on top of each other less than a mile away from their Hudson, FL home. Heather is shocked that the defense attorneys haven’t questioned many of the witnesses, even under circumstances where it would be appropriate for them to cross examine. Coffey believes the defense team recognizes how brutally the victims were murdered and with the overwhelming amount of evidence, there’s not much they can do. They expect the defendant to be found guilty of all charges. The most they are hopeful for is for some of the jurors to be against Matos being sentenced to death. Kendall adds, that in very difficult capital murder cases, it’s a huge win for the defense team when the client is sentenced to life in prison as opposed to the death penalty. In some cases, this is the best they can...

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PoliticKing With Kendall Coffey: Trump Contends With Moves By Mueller

Posted by on 2:52 pm in Blog Entry: Elections and Courts, Media Appearance: MSNBC with Kendall Coffey | Comments Off on PoliticKing With Kendall Coffey: Trump Contends With Moves By Mueller

Trump Contends With Moves By Mueller & Hands Over Documents In this interview with Larry King, former US Attorney Kendall Coffey responds to the Trump team’s turnover of documents to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Coffey rejects the notion Mueller’s request implies criminal conspiracy, but rather is simply following protocol in any investigation. Moreover, he explains that documenting and labeling every communication – be it a “scrap of paper” or email – between the Trump campaign and related parties is a prerequisite to speaking with key witnesses. In this way, investigators can catch them on misinformation and omissions of truth and differentiate between “collusion”, which is not a criminal act, and “criminal conspiracy” which is punishable. Full video is here....

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Spinning Wheels: The Television Interview

Posted by on 9:48 pm in Blog Entry: Spinning the Law | Comments Off on Spinning Wheels: The Television Interview

Attorney at law, legal analyst, high stakes litigator, and former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey discusses the importance of the television interview for law spinners. Television interviews can be a great forum for getting a message to the public. But they sometimes offer pain as well as gain because, in many ways, the broadcast venue is less forgiving than a judge and jury. During the Elián [González] case, I appeared in dozens of national news interviews over a four-month period in 2000. As I discovered immediately, each interview required the same intense level of preparation that lawyers require for a closing argument, except that closing arguments rarely occur between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. – that is, when network morning shows were starting their day with Elián. The time of day was manageable – no one on our team was sleeping much. As I soon learned, however, there were other factors that made television interviews and court appearances about as similar as Oz and Kansas. Superficially, a reporter’s interview consists of questioning lawyers about the client’s case. Just as judges question them in a regular courtroom. And, like good judges, good reporters typically ask thoughtful questions that intellectually challenge the attorney’s position, especially in high-profile cases where reporters can take the time to study the issues. Judges and juries, though, while holding the actual power of decision, are almost always a more hospitable venue than the networks. In a courtroom, judges and juries actually want lawyers to do their best and are often uncomfortable, even frustrated, over courtroom stumbles. As judges and jurors watch a lawyer walk across the legal tightrope, they want to see him or her safely reach the other side, even if they do not agree with that lawyer’s perspective of the case. In high-profile cases, on the other hand, television interviews might just as soon see the attorney stumble precariously on the tightrope with arms flailing, perhaps hanging on by a finger or maybe even falling. Legal missteps, like other unexpected twists, are simply more newsworthy. And the court of law is more forgiving of mistakes than the court of public opinion. When attorneys misspeak during court proceedings, their corrections are routinely accepted. Regarding damage control for televised mistakes, however, there is usually more damage and less control. In contrast to ongoing court proceedings, there is no second chance for correction after the interview is concluded. And while all judges know that smart lawyers are capable of saying dumb things, neither the media nor the public seem sympathetic when ill-advised mouthings come from professional mouthpieces. Also crucially different is the appetite for conflict. Judges and jurors rarely enjoy contentiousness between opposing attorneys. To the contrary, when judges ask questions, they often look for areas of agreement between lawyers and are usually gratified when opposing lawyers seem to agree on significant issues. Talk shows, however, do not stage lawyers for a group hug. Conflict is the spice of legal life for television. From the standpoint of many news producers, the more contentious the interview, the better the segment. As a result, rather than judge’s question exploring concurrence between parties, news shows can be a relentless search for conflict where reporters try to accentuate existing disagreement or provoke new disputes. During one of my interview tapings with Good Morning...

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Entrapment: Stuck in the Trap or Beating the Rap?

Posted by on 9:39 pm in Blog Entry: Criminal Cases | Comments Off on Entrapment: Stuck in the Trap or Beating the Rap?

When the police place the bait and defendants take the cheese, can they get out of the trap? Learn more about Kendall Coffey on his profile on Super Lawyers. The term entrapment is a favorite of the television law shows. It is frequently understood to mean that when a defendant takes the bait dangled by police, the entrapped defendant can count on an acquittal. The scenarios for setting up defendants are known as “stings” and are a common tool of law enforcement in cases ranging from public corruption to drug deals. Thus, the Department of Justice has long recognized that undercover operations have been “especially effective in public corruption investigations.” In one of the most famous of sting operations, the FBI during the late 1970s provided a fake Arab sheik who approached various members of Congress to lure them into accepting a bribe on videotape. By 1981, the “ABSCAM” investigation had netted convictions of six members of the House of Representatives and one US senator. Unsurprisingly, there was little applause from Congress, which criticized the FBI’s tactics, finding that the “use of undercover techniques creates serious risks to citizens’ property, privacy, and civil liberties.” Responding to such concerns, the attorney general imposed a broad array of preconditions limiting future attempts to use a sting operation to “set up” a public official. There were, of course, completely fictitious bribery shams, and there was neither a real sheik nor a real transaction to be purchased with bribe money. Even though a sting operation does not present a real-life deal and rests entirely upon a fiction, courts nevertheless hold that the conduct of the defendant is as criminal as if the participants were real. The cry of entrapment is frequently heard outside the courtroom when defendants are strung. In the actual trial, though, entrapment is a difficult defense to win. As the US Supreme Court explained, rather than the government’s conduct, “the entrapment defense focuses upon the intent or predisposition of the defendant to commit the crime.” The absence of a defendant’s preexisting criminal tendency must be clear. Most basically, a defendant has to show that he was actually turned into a criminal by the enticements of the police. If the defendant was simply repeating an already-existing practice of similar misconduct, he was not entrapped – he was just finally caught. An entrapment defense is a high-risk strategy. Presenting entrapment requires acknowledging that the defendant perpetrated the acts alleged by the prosecution. Instead of rolling the dice and taking this huge gamble, defendants may prefer to argue that their words and actions had meanings that were innocent rather than criminal. Because sting operations are planned in advanced, they typically have audio and video recordings to capture every memorable moment. After the arrest, the defense listens carefully to such tapes to decide whether to argue that the defendant’s conduct was arguably innocent (deny, deny) or inarguably guilty (set up, conned, and, of course, entrapped). When the defendant’s own voice includes guilty-sounding words, almost no amount of explanation will suffice. If, on the other hand, the meaning of the defendant’s recorded words is unclear, he or she may choose to profess innocence. (Arguing, for example, that “more pay” on a barely audible tape was really “no way.”) In instances of cryptic or ambiguous statements,...

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A Media Primer for Spinners: Silence is Golden, Especially When Required

Posted by on 8:32 pm in Blog Entry: Spinning the Law | Comments Off on A Media Primer for Spinners: Silence is Golden, Especially When Required

Kendall Coffey is a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and founding member of Coffey Burlington, PL. Learn more about his expertise in law on his personal website: With legal news, as with diets, some of the most delicious tidbits are off-limits. In fact, some laws make it a federal crime to disclose confidential information about especially sensitive subjects. In cases with national security implications governed by the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), a leakster could potentially face criminal prosecution. Grand jury proceedings are also confidential, and prosecutors and government agents could be prosecuted themselves for disclosing those secrets. Significantly, witnesses are under no such restraints, and some are surprisingly talkative. In ordinary circumstances, the rules prohibit attorneys from creating publicity that they know or should know will have a “substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing” the judicial proceedings. Publicity hounding early in a case is more tolerable, but as the trail draws near, the risk skyrockets that publicity reaching future jurors will influence their later decisions. Judges understandable perceive that the likelihood of prejudice is great with publicity that is near the time of trial as opposed to negative stories much earlier that are mostly forgotten by the average juror. Moreover, for prosecutors at least, extensive chest thumping about their case is rarely a good idea. Especially if defense attorneys are seeking to move the case to a different city, they will pounce upon press-happy prosecutors as purveyors of excessive pretrial publicity that prejudices potential jurors. An even greater restriction on press communication is, of course, the gag order. Although the term gag order is often used loosely to describe an assortment of limitations, in its extreme form, a true gag order prohibits virtually any communication about a pending case by the litigation team or courthouse personnel. Ordinarily disfavored due to concerns for rights of the press and public, gag orders were imposed in the Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson trials because nothing else could adequately protect the defendants from barrages of relentless news coverage. Some confidentiality orders are less drastic, even routine. For example, in cases about business trade secrets, courts frequently prohibit the disclosure of confidential processes, patents, or formulas. Perhaps because these restrict access to technical tedium rather than to courtroom dramas, they are often agreed upon by all parities and raise fewer objections from the...

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Selective Prosecution: Illegal or Just Unfair?

Posted by on 11:22 pm in Blog Entry: Criminal Cases, Blog Entry: Spinning the Law | Comments Off on Selective Prosecution: Illegal or Just Unfair?

This is an excerpt from Spinning the Law by Kendall Coffey. The full book is available for purchase on Amazon here. So-called selective prosecution is only illegal if a defendant is singled out for a purpose that is itself wrongful, such as discrimination based on race, gender, or political or religious affiliation. Like claims of a prosecutor’s vendetta, allegations of selective prosecution may get some press play but are almost never heard by juries. Actually, there is nothing illegal about prosecutors being selective. Law enforcement has every right to allocate limited human and financial resources and pursue some but not all perpetrators. No matter how many people are traveling 72 mph in a 55-mph zone, the two who are pulled over have no right to complain about the hundreds who continued to speed on down the highway. Nor is there anything illegal about targeting high-profile wrongdoers. In fact, in the federal system, where only a small fraction of potential crimes are actually the subject of federal indictments, prioritizing high impact cases is the name of the game. From the prosecutor’s standpoint, a defendant loaded with publicity value creates plenty of free advertising for the message of law enforcement about crimes and punishment. Prosecuting Winona Ryder for shoplifting at Saks Fifth Avenue made a more potent warning to prospective thieves than the conviction of an unknown. Similarly, bringing tax evasion cases against actor Wesley Snipes and businesswoman Leona Helmsley was a powerful message to potential tax cheats. What makes selective prosecution illegal is an improper purpose. A prosecution mainly motivation by vindictiveness, if provable, would qualify. So would targeting particular political leaders or members of a racial or ethnic minority. But the last time the Supreme Court validated a selective prosecution defense was during the nineteenth century. In the famous case of Yick Wo v. Hopkins, the court found that a San Francisco ordinance imposing stricter requirements on laundries was only enforced if the operators happened to be Chinese. Unless a discriminatory effect as well as a discriminatory purpose can be proven, no claim will be sustained. Such selectivity could also be a constitutional violation if, say, a prosecutor targeted only defendants of a particular faith or political affiliation. In such instances, it is not the mere act of selecting some defendants rather than others. It is instead selecting them on grounds that violate their First Amendment or equal protection rights. Much of what is claimed to be discrimination results from efforts to target prominent people. Perhaps celebrities and politicians are indeed discriminated against in this sense, but such extra scrutiny is an occupational hazard. As long as neither political ideology nor demographics are the motivation, it is not illegal discrimination. It is the price of fame. For the latest news and updates for Kendall Coffey, be sure to follow him on...

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Kendall Coffey on Fox News: What happens next after Comey ousting? – May 10th, 2017

Posted by on 7:07 pm in Media Appearance: Elections and Courts with Kendall Coffey | Comments Off on Kendall Coffey on Fox News: What happens next after Comey ousting? – May 10th, 2017

Kendall Coffey, one of the country’s top litigators presently working as a partner at Coffey Burlington in Miami, Florida, appeared on Fox News’ Fox & Friend to discuss the recent firing of FBI Director James Comey. For more from Mr. Coffey, follow him on Twitter. Abby Huntsman: Welcome back. FBI Director James Comey fired, and to no one’s surprise, the left immediately attacking the president. Jeffrey Toobin: This is the kind of thing that goes on in non-democracies. Chuck Schumer: I told the President, Mr. President, with all due respect, you are making a big mistake. AH: So what happens next? Here to weigh in is Kendall Coffey. He is a former U.S. attorney, under President Bill Clinton. Thank you so much for being with us this morning. Kendall Coffey: Thanks for including me. AH: So you’re an important voice to talk to, as this is all breaking, and there are so many important questions still left to answer.  But the biggest one is, what happens next, and how hard is it going to be to find that perfect replacement for him? KC: Well, they thought Comey was the perfect choice in the first place, so I think there’re going to be that much more careful this time. But the profile that you need at this point is someone with solid law enforcement credentials, obviously bi-partisan support to an extent, and some demonstrated independence. I think that person exists, and the most important thing about all of this, despite the present commotion, is getting somebody who the public respects and who will restore all credibility to the FBI. Martha McCallum: Well as for now, it’s Andrew McCabe, Deputy Director. He’s going to be filling in for a short time. Can you tell us a little more about him? He’s going to be next in line for a couple of days, so to speak. KC: Yeah, he’s a career guy, been there more than 20 years. A little bit of a controversy because his wife had been a Democratic legislative candidate a couple of years ago. But the important thing to remember is that this has never been the James Comey investigation, and it’s not now the Andrew McCabe investigation. This is an investigation by career FBI agents, their supervisors, prosecutors—including, by the way, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who launched some subpoenas recently in the matter, and he was an Obama appointee. So there’s a lot of reason to trust this process going forward, but I think McCabe is going to get some extra looks because of his connection with the Democratic Party. AH: Well, you mentioned Democratic Party, Kendall. A lot of politics always involved with something like this. Democrats, though, they are telling Trump he should not have fired James Comey. But they were the ones calling foul for how [it took] long up this point, saying he should be out. KC: Yeah, the criticism of Comey in late October was blistering. You might recall that then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wanted him investigated for violating the Hatch Act. So unmistakably, while this is a dedicated public servant–James Comey is certainly an outstanding prosecutor–there are highly irregular, unprecedented mistakes that were made in his case. And his recent testimony indicated if he had...

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Defense of Insanity: Overly Successful or Overrated?

Posted by on 5:36 pm in Blog Entry: Criminal Cases, Blog Entry: Spinning the Law | Comments Off on Defense of Insanity: Overly Successful or Overrated?

This is an excerpt from Spinning the Law by Kendall Coffey. The full book is available for purchase on Amazon here. Even for defendants who are mentally ill, the legal defense of insanity is rarely successful – especially since the laws changed in the wake of the insanity-based acquittal of John Hinkley Jr., President Reagan’s attempted assassin. Insanity might seem like a really good idea, at least for a defendant caught red-handed in criminal activity. In everyday conversations people are quick to suggest that an otherwise guilty person can get off by claiming insanity or even temporary insanity. Such defendants are crazy, the public speculates, but crazy like a fox. The legal reality is galaxies apart from this popular wisdom. In criminal prosecutions, a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity is presented in 0.85 percent of cases, less than one in a hundred. Such strategies succeed no more than a fourth of the time. So the odds of an accused criminal beating the rap by wrapping himself in a straightjacket are roughly on in four hundred. Ironically, even individuals who are clearly mentally ill are not necessarily considered insane for legal purposes. Unless the affliction it’s an extremely narrow definition of what constitutes insanity for legal purposes, mental disease is no defense. Just consider the number of prison inmates who have serious mental disorders. This poses increasing problems for corrections officials who lack the resources to provide them with proper care. In the past, an insanity defense was more readily available. Things changed in 1981 with the attempted assassination of President Ronal Reagan and the subsequent trial of assailant John Hickley Jr. By any standard, Hinckley was mentally ill. Obsessed with movie star Jodie Foster, he thought killing President Reagan was a great way to get her attention But public uproar greeted his acquittal in 1982 by reason of insanity. Some 83 percent of Americans believed that justice was not done Neither the public nor the jury usually knows that an acquittal by reason of insanity is not much of a victory. Insane defendants, especially violent ones, spend many years in mental hospitals that are the equivalent of prisons. In fact, Hinkley would spend close to twenty-eight years in a mental facility before being allowed limited visits to his mother’s house. Some states do not even permit an insanity defense. The US Supreme Court determined in 2006 that Arizona did not violate the Constitution by preventing a defendant from presenting the defense of legal insanity. In That case, a young man, who believed that aliens were out to get him, killed a police office in Phoenix. No one accused the defendant of faking. His mental illness was undeniable. The Supreme Court found that the state could hold him accountable nonetheless, and it allowed the conviction and life sentence to stand. Texas mother Andrea Yates was likewise impaired when she was tried for the drowning murders of her five children. Not even the prosecutors denied that she was mentally ill. Evidence showed that she believed she had been hearing voices commanding her to save the children from eternal damnation by dispatching them to a better place. Despite abundant evidence of mental illness, in her first trial in 2002 she was found sane and was convicted of the murders. On...

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Pop Law: Do Celebrities Get Special Treatment?

Posted by on 9:49 pm in Blog Entry: Spinning the Law | Comments Off on Pop Law: Do Celebrities Get Special Treatment?

This is an excerpt from Spinning the Law by Kendall Coffey. The full book is available for purchase on Amazon here. The public usually assumes that celebrities receive preferential treatment at every turn in criminal cases, as well as in civil proceedings. Their lawyers tell a different story. The one point of agreement is that celebrities, like other people with lots of money, can hire the best legal representation. Additionally, a Martha Stewart can afford public-relations consultants and even public-opinion surveys, while ordinary defendants may be getting advice from only their family members and drinking pals. Except for the issue of financial resources, celebrities are otherwise less favored by the system than one might think. Certainly, when it comes to being investigated, no one receives more scrutiny than a celebrity. Prosecutors and investigators look under every rock and behind every blade of grass. After all, if proceedings are brought, famous people become famous cases, and high-profile trials define the careers of prosecutors and sometimes of police and of criminalists. Additionally, celebrities may have more difficulty getting favorable plea deals. Few prosecutors want to face public outrage and press rancor for supposedly letting a celebrity off the hook. As to prison time for guilty celebs, judges usually try to sentence the rich and famous as if they were neither. When cameras are hovering nearby, judges know they will not be rewarded for leniency. Fraudster Bernie Madoff received a one-hundred-fifty-year prison sentence, five times his likely life expectancy. At the other end of the criminal spectrum, Paris Hilton was sentenced to forty-five days in jail for violating probation by driving without a license. Her sentence was certainly not lenient to begin with, but her modest legal problems were about to become a ratings gangbuster that attracted extensive coverage from cable news. When she was released early due to medical issues, a national uproar ensued. Within hours, the judge ordered her back into court and then on her way back to Los Angeles County jail. Professor and legal analyst Laurie L. Levenson attributed Hilton’s above-par punishment for traffic violations to the reality that “people are fed up with celebrity justice.” Being tough on Paris Hilton may have seemed harsh to her family and her fans, but for most of the public, the judge seemingly stood tall when Paris Hilton went down. Keep up with the latest updates from Kendall Coffey on Twitter,...

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Kendall Coffey on The Lars Larson Show – March 9th, 2017

Posted by on 12:09 am in Media Appearance: Elections and Courts with Kendall Coffey | Comments Off on Kendall Coffey on The Lars Larson Show – March 9th, 2017

Kendall Coffey is a founding Partner at Coffey Burlington, PL, former U.S. Attorney, and frequent guest legal analyst on international television networks. He is also an adjunct professor at University of Miami School of Law. Kendall Coffey joined the Lars Larson Show on March 9th, 2017 to discuss the recent lawsuits against President Trump’s Executive Order restricting travel from six Muslim-majority countries. Lars Larson: Mr. Coffey, thanks a lot for joining us again. Tell me what you think of these lawsuits and if they will find any traction in the federal courts. Kendall Coffey: Well, I think it’s going to be so much tougher this time. The basic theme of the lawsuit seems to be, “Well, this is just another version of the original executive order that was found invalid.” If it looks like a duck, walk likes a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s, after all, a duck. As people read this, they’ll see that in legal terms, at least, it’s a bird of a different feather. It’s more thoughtfully drafted. It clearly avoids the major legal pitfalls of the original executive order, which was, you will recall, a statement prohibiting green card holders from the 7 countries. This problem was something that I think most analysts thought would be very difficult to overcome in the original order. This order is not only thoughtful in the way it’s drafted, but it explains some of the concerns of each of the 6 remaining countries that are subject to this. Just to put in context, what the executive order focuses on, it states that there is a need to deal with countries where we don’t trust their informational processes to tell us who is coming to this country from their countries. It’s very specific about that. It says that it requires a process by the major agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, to see if these countries can correct their current informational concerns, and at the same time, it calls upon Homeland Security and other agencies to examine the information we’re receiving from all the other countries to make sure that we go through a delivered process and see if there are other countries as well as the 6 that are not giving us reliable information about their citizens when their citizens try to come to this country. I don’t think that, fairly read, this document is subjected to a strong legal challenge, but the challenges continue, and I certainly won’t predict what may happen. Could there be a federal district court that rules for the challengers? Maybe. But I think if this gets to an appeals court, they’re going to have to look at this document and apply the many decisions of the Supreme Court, which says, basically, that the president has the right to do this order in the name of national security. Lars Larson: Shouldn’t we be taking a hard look at almost everybody, whether they’re a green card holder or not at some level, and saying, Are we getting the information we need? Kendall Coffey: Well, that’s what this order requires, and not to read any length, but it talks about the foreign governments’ willingness or ability to share or validate important information about individuals seeking to travel to the USA. I think that...

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