Friday, February 26, 2016

Kendall Coffey on the Apple vs FBI encryption fight

U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey noted on CNNMoney that it is unusual for a major company like Apple to pick a huge legal battle with the FBI.

"What's striking about this scenario is the opposition in the face of a court order," Coffey said. "It signals it's going to be a big fight. A lot of companies don't want to be on the wrong side of the FBI. Their jurisdiction is broad, and it can be akin to tugging on Superman's cape."

Read more on the topic here.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Religious Freedom Is Next Legal Clash

Kendall Coffey discusses how religious freedom is the next legal clash in this video.

Here is the full transcript:

Obama: “America is a place where you can write your own destiny. We are a people who believe that every single child is entitled to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There’s so much more work to be done to extend the full promise of America to every American—but today we can say, in no uncertain terms, that we made our union a little more perfect.”

Malzberg: Alright, a matter of opinion folks, and that’s what we got from the Supreme Court of course, a matter of 9 opinions, 5–4, in favor of gay marriage nationwide. Kendall Coffey, partner at Coffey Burlington LLC, former U.S. Attorney joins us. Kendall, welcome. Let’s start with today’s ruling and boy, the dissenting opinions, each one very strong and emotional, as was Kennedy’s ruling as well.

Coffey: Yeah, I mean, really eloquent expressions. At least you know that the 9 folks working up at [unintelligible] are just brilliant minds who are very convincing and eloquent in the way they write. It was a 5–4 opinion, I don’t think it was a surprise, Steve. I think most folks saw it coming out this way indeed. I think a lot suspected that Justice Kennedy, who has a past in this area, would be the author of the opinion.

Again, you look at the dissents from Chief Justice Roberts and his dissent was really talking about not whether it’s bad or it’s good, but really who makes the decision? And his emphasis was that a lot of states through their own democratic processes are validating same sex marriage—but in a democratic republic, should that decision rest with the people acting through their elected representatives or, and I’m quoting him, “with five lawyers, who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legal disputes?” Needless to say, Justice Kennedy’s opinion was also brilliantly reading.

If I could just highlight just one issue Steve (Malzberg: Yeah, please!) that kind of intrigued me and hasn’t got a lot of attention and that’s this: because I think most expected that it would come down the way it did and extend a constitutional right to same sex marriage, but what about those whose religious beliefs are such that as private actors they do not want to participate in, for example, a same sex marriage? That’s come up a lot, and you and I have talked about that a lot. I thought there was something interesting in Justice Kennedy’s opinion that may have referred to that where he describes that the first amendment provides protection of religious organizations and people so that they have proper protection in terms of adhering to their principles. So, I think his opinion obviously is very strong and in support of same sex marriage, I thought he was signaling that there may be some interest to looking into what are the religious protections extended to those as private individuals who disagree.

Malzberg: Well, yes. And if this case were to come up to this court, I wonder if Kennedy is a swing vote, maybe he would be swing and they’d be protected. Justice Alito said that “does this mean that people are going to have to, if they have strongly held beliefs, are they going to have to whisper them in private or are they going to be accused of bigotry whether it’s at the workplace, place of employment, school, or in the community?” and that is a very frightening thing. And you and I also I think talked about that in the oral arguments, Alito asked the question, I’m paraphrasing, to the supporter of gay marriage attorney, what if we rule your way will the tax-exempt status of churches who preach that a marriage is between a man and a woman be jeopardized? And the attorney gave his opinion and said well, that could come down the road (Coffey: Yeah) so that is something we have to watch for.

Coffey: Yeah, that may be the next big issue. You and I have also talked about on this show how under some state laws, they have fined or they have punished people who, for example, did not want to participate in a gay marriage as photographers or florists or things like that based on what were apparently sincerely held religious principles and I thought that Kennedy’s opinion signaled that that may have, when that decision comes up as it likely will, that may have an outcome that respects religious freedoms.

Malzberg: Yeah, that’s very interesting—very great catch there. Kendall, always great to talk to you, sir, thank you very much.

Coffey: Have a great weekend and a great week. The best of Fridays. Thank you.

Malzberg: Kendall Coffey ladies and gentleman.  

Friday, August 1, 2014

Kendall Coffey Discusses Consolidation of Marriage Equality Suits in Florida

Motions filed to consolidate gay marriage suits
Motions filed to consolidate gay marriage suits
Motions filed to consolidate gay marriage suits

By Dan Sweeney, Sun Sentinel2:27 p.m. EDT, July 31, 2014

Two same-sex marriage lawsuits currently winding their way through the Third District Court of Appeals may soon be combined into one
Circuit court judges in both Miami-Dade and Monroe counties have struck down Florida's same-sex marriage ban, but both decisions were stayed pending appeals.
"Consoldiating the two cases makes all the sense in the world, not only because of the importance but because of the commonality," said Kendall Coffey, an adjunct professor at the University of Miami's School of Law.
Attorney Kendall Coffey
Kendall Coffey is an attorney in Miami and former U.S. Attorney for the Southern Region
  • Lawyers for both sets of plaintiffs have filed motions seeking the consolidation and the defendant county clerks have not objected.
Both sets of plaintiffs are also asking the court of appeals to let the case move straight to the Florida Supreme Court because the issues addressed "are of great public importance.''
Such action is "occurs in truly extraordinary cases," Coffey said. He also said the appellate court could also accelerate the speed at which it heard the case., 954-356-4605 or Twitter @Daniel_Sweeney

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Attorney Kendall Coffey Questions Plaintiff in Malpractice Suit

Kendall Coffey of Coffey Burlington
Miami Attorney, Kendall Coffey, Partner in Coffey Burlington, questions Rodger Shay during Shay's malpractice suit against Shutts and Bowen Attorneys.

From the Daily Business Review:

"Coffey politely but stridently grilled Shay on the witness stand Thursday, clearly trying to paint him as someone who was calling his own shots in the disputed real estate transactions.
Coffey got Shay to admit that he gave power-of-attorney not to Brown or Souto, but to a member of the condominium sales staff in the Dominican Republic.
Shay also testified he visited the construction sites several times, knew construction was behind schedule and was aware the beachside development hadn't been subdivided, which would indicate he couldn't take title of the plot.
Coffey, in a pleading filed in 2013 arguing against allowing punitive claims, saying the contracts were already signed by the time Shay hired Shutts & Bowen for four months in 2005. The lawsuit boils down to Shay wanting Brown and Souto to negotiate a better deal for him or advise him "this is just a lousy deal, walk away," as the millionaire testified in a deposition."

Attorney Kendall Coffey Questions Plaintiff, Shay, in Malpractice Suit

Friday, January 3, 2014

Kendall Coffey on the Rights of Life

Flickr CC via Mercy Health
Kendall Coffey discussed a case in Texas with Steve Malzberg last week.  There is a law in Texas that is keeping a woman on life support because she is 14 weeks pregnant. Here is Kendall Coffey's commentary on the case:

The family is frustrated with the law, and they’re considering whether to in affect file a court challenge.  The essence of the court challenge would be that she has this tragically impaired woman has some right of privacy to determine her own death with dignity.  What I haven’t developed in the law, and certainly, other people who are not carrying a human life inside them, no question can provide living wills that specify under certain conditions.  Such as when someone’s brain does not seem to have maintained cognitive ability, they have a constitutional right to terminate their life. 

This situation, though I haven’t seen a court that says she has the right to end her own life if it eliminates the life of an unborn child.  That is the decision that has to be accepted.  Nor do I know, and haven’t been able to find the details whether she still wanted her own life terminated if she were pregnant. Surely this is not a situation that they would have anticipated at the time that the directive was given, but I would suggest that from a constitutional standpoint, that she is being described as virtually brain dead, it seems to be that there has to be a greater respect for the life of the unborn child, where her own life is irretrievably damaged.

This is not the normal situation of a Roe v. Wade where you have a healthy vibrant person who is in full possession of their power and chooses to invoke a decision of their constitutional right to privacy.  This is someone who is no longer capable of making any decision at all.  So in that situation, do you override the laws of Texas, which says that if there is an ability to keep an unborn fetus alive to maturity then that is what the law requires?  It’s very different than some the cases we’ve been talking about.

I think it’s a fundamentally different question if the woman is pregnant, and I don’t know if there is any evidence that she said she would want to be taken off of life support even with an unborn child.  There’s a lot of discussion between balancing the rights of a woman and the later months in pregnancy.  It’s a much more difficult question when the only life that is able to be saved is that of the child.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Kendall Coffey Slams the "Affluenza" Defense

Kendall Coffey on News Nation
Last week, Tamron Hall invited Kendall Coffey onto News Nation on MSNBC to discuss the latest high profile case in Texas, that of Ethan Couch.  The teenager is from a rich family and used his priviliged upbringing as a defense for killing four people in a drunk driving incident.  The judge sentenced him to ten years of probation and no jail time.

Kendall Coffey asserted that the defense was "appalling" and the case made the entire justice system look bad.  He further insisted that if "affluenza" is an actual condition, then it can be treated with fairness and accountability.  That would include jail time in this case.

Ethan Couch's lawyer told the media that taking Ethan away from his family for rehabilitation was the punishment that the teenager deserved.

Attorney Scott Brown said, "The consequences are that he is taken away from his family, he’s taken away from all the things that he’s been given.  He’s not going to have the truck to drive, he’s not going to have all the other things that he’s used to.  He’s not going to going to have his Xbox, he won’t have alcohol or drugs.  We are taking him away from his family and teaching him to be a responsible citizen, that’s a consequence."

The reply from Kendall Coffey was rich with sarcasm. 

"I’m grief stricken.  No Xbox? I’ll tell you how to keep someone if he needs to be somewhat removed from his parents- prison will do that."

Kendall Coffey continued, "And I want to come back to something you just mentioned.  What about a poor child who through no fault of his or her own is a victim of abuse, lives in a community that is fraught with peril, and makes some mistakes in life.  Does the system forgive you for that? There’s hardly any forgiveness at all. I’m sorry Tamron, but the contrast is just so dramatic, between rich and poor, as illustrated by this case."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rod Blagojevich Drama Continues

 The appeal of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s conviction and 14-year prison sentence has entered its final stage. Blagojevich was convicted of misusing his powers as Governor of Illinois in 2011 and believed to be committing “pay to play” schemes, including selling Barack Obama’s Senate seat after the 2008 presidential election.

 On July 13th, 2013, Blagojevich filed an appeal with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The appeal cites a judicial predisposition and jury bias. Blagojevich will have to convince the court that his convictions were unfitting and that the trial could have had a different outcome.

 The former Governor of Illinois was tried twice, in which the first trial had the jury hung on 23 counts and a conviction for one charge: lying to the FBI. In his book “Spinning the Law”, Kendall Coffey discussesBlagojevich’s first trial where a juror was quoted saying that “he was just talking” during his testimony and creating a new “blabbermouth” defense.

 In the book, Kendall Coffey states, “…the reality remained that by arresting Blagojevich before his wheeling and dealing reached actual stealing, prosecutors left some room for him to claim he may have neared the line of crime but never crossed it.”

 “Unless a ‘smoking gun’ shows stealing, it’s harder to convict for wheeling and dealing,” is Kendall Coffey’s spinning lesson for Blagojevich’s first trial.

Flickr CC via The Rachel Maddow Show
 In June 2011, Blagojevich was re-tried where he was found guilty of 17 remaining charges and sentenced to 14 years in federal prison.

 Blagojevich was elected governor in 2002 after serving on the U.S. House of Representatives for Chicago. Blagojevich has been incarcerated since March 2012 at a low-security prison in Denver. If his appeal is not granted, he will remain in prison until 2024.