Blog

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

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...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

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,...

read more

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...

read more

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act

Posted by on 10:48 pm in Blog Entry: Elections and Courts | Comments Off on The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) renders foreign states (as well as the political subdivisions, agencies, and instrumentalities thereof) immune from suit in U.S. federal and state courts in most circumstances. The FSIA embraces the restrictive theory of sovereign immunity, which confines immunity to a foreign country’s public acts and excludes from immunity the private/commercial acts. Congress enacted FSIA to address a “modern world where foreign state enterprises are every day participants in commercial activities.” Samantar v. Yousuf, 560 U.S. 305, 323 (2010).  Section 1605 creates exceptions to immunity in limited circumstances set forth in 28 U.S.C. Section 1605. Some of the more frequently litigated exceptions include when the foreign state has explicitly or implicitly waived immunity, and when the subject of the lawsuit is the foreign state’s commercial activity involving the U.S. In a recent court decision addressing the commercial activity exception, one federal appeals court allowed a U.S. citizen to sue the railway service owned by the Republic of Austria for an accident that occurred in Austria. The court found that because the Austrian railway sold tickets in the U.S., this constituted commercial activity with the U.S. Sachs v. Republic of Austria, 737 F.3d 584 (9th Cir. 2013) (en banc). This decision, which is binding in certain western states such as California, appears to expand the commercial activity exception and thereby reduce the immunity of foreign governments in some situations. Significantly, foreign sovereign immunity does not protect a foreign official sued for acts performed in an official capacity because the definition of “foreign state” does not include a “foreign official.” See Samantar v. Yousuf, 560 U.S. 305 (2010). In that case, the Supreme Court held that “an individual foreign official sued for conduct undertaken in his official capacity is not a ‘foreign state’ entitled to immunity from suit within the meaning of [FSIA].” Id. The Court emphasized that its holding was narrow and that the official may still invoke foreign sovereign immunity under the common law, including the immunity that applies to a foreign head of state. Id. at 325-26. Also important is the fact that to be sued in this country, the foreign official must have connections with the U.S. sufficient to constitute “minimum contacts”. Along with other exceptions, foreign sovereign immunity does not prevent U.S. courts from having jurisdiction over foreign governments for personal injury or death resulting from acts of...

read more

When Sports and the Law Collide

Posted by on 10:42 pm in Blog Entry: Spinning the Law | Comments Off on When Sports and the Law Collide

When most of us catch the game on TV, we aren’t really thinking about all the legal issues surrounding sports. We’re just hoping to unwind with our favorite team. In reality, however, the law extends into athletics just as much as anywhere else. For sports-loving, would-be lawyers, that makes for a great opportunity. After all, someone has to represent those players, team owners, concession stand workers, administrators, and others when problems arise. In his description of life as a sports lawyer, professor, and director of the National Sports Law Institute, Matthew J. Mitten recounts a variety of cases he’s dealt with: representing a county during litigation surrounding an NFL club’s relocation; providing legal advice to a baseball player wanting to level a medical malpractice suit at his former team; and more than one situation sparked by intellectual property law. Mitten’s tasks run the gamut from registering trademarks to providing information about liability. He’s served sports physician organizations, coaches, referees, sports facility operators, sports broadcasters, and more. He’s had to delve into his knowledge in a variety of areas of law, including contract, labor, and intellectual property law. Sports law isn’t just for professional teams, either. Schools—both high schools and colleges—face legal issues as well. Here are just a few in recent times: College athletes wanting to unionize. The National Labor Relations Board was faced with a case involving Northwestern University scholarship football players wanting to unionize back in 2014. While initially finding in favor of the athletes, the Board stated the following year that they would not uphold their previous decision. An appeal to federal courts is still a possibility. Title IX and gender equity. Schools across the country struggle to keep up with complaints regarding Title IX issues, particular in terms of offering equal opportunities to both boys and girls when it comes to sports. Since the mid-90s, there have been about 125-150 complaints regarding Title IX infringement filed with the OCR, with half going to settlement and half ending up in federal courts.  Serving athletes with disabilities. Since the Disabilities Education Act, schools across the country have made an effort to make athletics available to students with disabilities, with varying results. In 2013, the United States Department of Education, under Arne Duncan, released a statement on schools’ legal responsibilities to provide for disabled students when it comes to athletics. Schools are required to either allow disabled students to participate with their peers or else provide participation opportunities through adapted programs. As sports law continues to develop, it provides an opportunity for those interested in a variety of both legal and athletics studies to find the places where these two areas intersect. There are plenty of situations requiring legal advice to keep the international delight with sports moving along in a fair and equitable way. Sports lawyers and others serving the athletics industry are key to making it easy for anyone to sit down and enjoy watching the game—not to mention playing in...

read more

Could Pokemon Go Cause You to Break the Law?

Posted by on 9:42 pm in Blog Entry: Spinning the Law | Comments Off on Could Pokemon Go Cause You to Break the Law?

Pokemon Go is one of the first augmented reality games to gain national notoriety and be played avidly by the general public. Pokemon Go lays down its own content over a Google Maps program. This allows the players to walk around through the Pokemon Go map on their phone while walking around in the real world. In the Pokemon world, Pokemon wander around, and players need to find and capture them. There are also hotspots where players can acquire items or where Pokemon are more likely to be found. There are also gyms where players can take their Pokemon to fight. All of these reflect locations in the physical world from bus stops to coffee shops to churches. While the game has gotten lots of players out of the house and walking around their neighborhoods, the popularity of an augmented reality game like Pokemon Go raises both safety and legal issues. Police officers across the country have been issuing statements reminding people to exercise their common sense while playing the game. Don’t run into people on the sidewalk. Remember that traffic exists in the real world. Do not operate any kind of vehicle or bicycle while using the app. It’s also important to note that the game does not discriminate between public and private property when it places Pokemon and other game objects. It is important that the users and parents of young users are aware that this boundary very much exists in the real and legal world. Pokemon have been placed in businesses, churches, and private residences. “Catching Pokemon” is not a reason to enter into private spaces without permission. It is especially important to make sure children understand this boundary. Police are concerned about potential conflict or injuries from being mistaken for an intruder, as well as the repeated trespassing reports. It is also important to note that the user “assumes liability related to any property damage, personal injury or death,” including violations of laws while playing the game. This is included in the agreement users sign to begin playing the game. Nintendo, etc. are not liable for actions users take during the game. Another important reason to be aware during the game is that users can add lures to the game. Users have been known to set a lure, attract other users, and then rob...

read more

Will Omar Mateen’s Wife Face Charges for Failing to Stop Her Husband’s Shooting Spree?

Posted by on 9:06 pm in Blog Entry: Criminal Cases | Comments Off on Will Omar Mateen’s Wife Face Charges for Failing to Stop Her Husband’s Shooting Spree?

Will Omar Mateen’s Wife Face Charges for Failing to Stop Her Husband’s Shooting Spree?

Omar Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman, may face criminal charges due to her possible involvement with her husband’s assault on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL. A federal grand jury is reviewing the incident and Salman’s suspected involvement in the attack. Mateen killed 49 people and took hostages during his attack on the gay nightclub. Kendall Coffey, former southern Florida U.S. Attorney, explained that the charges Salman might face would increase in their severity in relation to the grand jury’s decision about the level of her involvement in the crime. “If she drove him to get ammunition or to case the crime scene, I think that’s enough to warrant very serious charges if she had requisite knowledge of the crimes,” Coffey said. FBI officials have reported that Salman once drove her husband to the nightclub so that he could study its layout. She also joined her husband when he purchased a holster and ammunition for his shooting spree. The FBI investigation suggests that Salman is suspected to be her husband’s accomplice in what has been the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Salman was born in San Pablo, in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, and graduated from high school in 2004. Her parents and her husband’s family, living in the Palestinian territories, arranged her first marriage. She met her second husband, Omar Mateen, online, and they married in 2011 and have a 3-year-old son. If Salman knew that a crime was going to be committed, she could be guilty of intentionally hiding the knowledge of a felony and aiding and abetting a crime. Further investigations by the FBI and grand jury could determine that Salman is guilty of conspiracy to commit and act of terrorism. It was reported on CNN that Mateen and his wife exchanged text messages during the assault. A law enforcement officer reported to CNN that the text occurred at about 4 a.m. when Mateen was hiding in the bathroom at the gay nightclub. Salman responded in a text that she loved him. Mateen’s first wife alleges that she was the victim of abuse during her marriage to the shooter. If Mateen threatened Salman in any way, she could argue that she was operating under duress and was too afraid to call the police. Her marriage alone won’t protect her from criminal charges. “If the authorities have evidence beyond reasonable doubt that she did everything knowing what he was going to do, then I think she will face very serious criminal charges,” Coffey...

read more

Could Robots Replace Lawyers?

Posted by on 9:55 am in Blog Entry: Criminal Cases | Comments Off on Could Robots Replace Lawyers?

Could Robots Replace Lawyers?

Could robots replace lawyers as the most efficient and unbiased keepers of the law? Science fiction has posed this question for decades, but now the question is entering the real world. In fact, one British study predicts that robots will replace lawyers by 2030! Why would you want a robot lawyer? The perceived benefits of a robotic lawyers largely stem from the benefits that we project onto AI and robots in cinema: they can be pragmatic, incorruptible, and more efficient than any human lawyer could possibly dream of being. That warm human touch and compassion is missing, of course, but the comparative flawlessness that computers employ is certainly attractive in a legal case. And in fact, there are many potential benefits of a robo-lawyer: Document review can be automated through predictive coding. Human lawyers can work with programmers to make robo-lawyers sufficiently accurate at predicting whether or not a legal case is relevant for a law firm. Document and case management has been automated for years and already allows lawyers to fill out automated templates, perform billing tasks, and many other clerical tasks. The clerical realm might be where machines shine the brightest. Computers can also be trained to perform some levels of legal research. While the reasoning of a computer is limited in some respects, simple queries (like you might request of Siri or Cortana on your phone) can be easily and quickly answered. So, when can I expect to be represented by a robo-lawyer? If you’re expecting a robotic lawyer in the actual courtroom, then you’ll have to be patient. However, robo-lawyers that simply assist real humans are already among us! One example is ROSS. According to The Washington Post, one of the country’s largest law firms, BakerHostetler, has “hired” the first “robot lawyer” to assist with bankruptcy cases. ROSS has been called “the world’s first artificially intelligent attorney.” But don’t think of ROSS as a physical robot with a metal body: it is a complex program accessible through a computer and billed as a subscription service. Still, it’s a start! What’s more, a 19-year-old has also created a free robot lawyer that has already appealed $3 million in parking tickets. One simply has to sign up and have a conversation with the robot to see if there are any ways that a parking ticket can be appealed. It works off of conversations and pays attention to specific keywords, the order of words, pronouns, and more, which makes it incredibly user-friendly. So what is the likely future of robot lawyers? Ned Gannon, Co-Founder and CEO of eBrevia put it best in a Bloomberg law article: “In twenty years, a machine will help analyze data, but you will still be hiring a...

read more