Mimi Coffey's Personal Blog on Politics, Society, and Social Injustice
Sunday, January 06, 2013
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
Mimi Coffey 2012 Happy New Year
Mimi Coffey 2012 Memorable Moments (I couldn’t make this stuff up if I wanted to)
1. Results: Great year and closed it by winning 6 out of the last 7 trials (blood, felony, accident, dwi-drugs to name a few facts).
2. Professionally: asked to be a Regent to the NCDD (prestigious nationwide National College of DUI Defense), the first Texan who practices outside the Houston area.
3. Children: Kiki got a perfect 4.0 this semester as a biology major at UT. Sparky made a 3.89 this semester as math major at Baylor University. Class ranks came out at the beginning of the year for BHS: Spencer was ranked 1/472 in his sophomore class. Mimi Coffey Jr. (a 6th grader) won the Tannahill spelling bee and has made straight As all year (She also made the Whiz Quiz team, runs miles weekly with Running Bears, & made percussion and loves it. Her band teacher encouraged her voice talent so now she has a professional voice coach.)
4. I was asked to put on a blindfold, turn off my cellphone and was shockingly proposed to on a billboard that made the news. Tony & I will be getting married Sept. 7, 2013. After Texas Tech Dean’s list in the Architecture School & 8 years with Huckabee architects he is studying for his architecture license doing IDP hours & preparing for 7 exams (there are only 100,000 licensed architects in the country, most never get licensed).
5. Discovered my alltime favorite tv show “Impractical Jokers.” Yup, this trial lawyer comes home to tivo’d ridiculousness to unwind. Discovered I was a good practical jokesters myself (ask the office about the birthday fart machine …)
6. Went to South Carolina and got hosted royalty style, not only did I go to a Gamecock game on the 50 yard line but got to tour the locker room and party ESPN style in Scott Joye’s traincar afterwards.
7. The battle with the Longhorns continues (my neighbor’s)…. the most memorable was the 8 Longhorns who shit everywhere for 3 days during Christmas on my front lawn. Never will I consider the phrase “shit happens” the same. A true safety risk but funny. It’s all good. It’s my poor neighbor that gets to clean up the shit.
8. My maintenance guy kindly asked if we would like to have some mulch as a Christmas gift. We now have ten 18 wheeler loads dumped all around my property (mulch anyone ?). My mom just can’t say no… there are literally mulch mountains as you drive in my gate… Thank you Scott, it is good for the soil.
9. Tony dressed up as turkey for the Thanksgiving holidays and kept us all in stitches. Ever played a game of pickup basketball with a turkey ? He made the news high fiving the Ft. Worth Turkey trotters this year. Pure greatness. I can’t think about it without my belly shaking with laughter..
10. Found out I could survive 18 college/high school kids in one house at Padre Island and NO one get arrested. Pretty proud of that ;) Fun for all….
Happy New Year everyone. May your 2013 be filled with success, laughter and much happiness with friends , family and good health. –Mimi Coffey, Sr.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Inspiring JudgesWant to take the time to relate inspiring thoughts on the nobleness of 2 judges.
The first is Tarrant County District Court #4 Judge Mike Thomas. He played on the Baylor Bear football team years ago when many hotels did not allow blacks to stay in them. He was on the first Baylor football team that allowed blacks to play. When they played the University of Arkansas they could not find a hotel in Fayetteville that would allow their black team member to stay so the whole team stayed in neighboring Ft. Smith,Arkansas because they refused to tolerate such inequality. Tarrant County should know that Mike Thomas has a deep sense of fairness innately and has had it for many years of his life.
Dallas's delinquent court judge Joseph Miller understands that you can change a young person's life early on and prevent a life of serious crime if you get them the right help. In his court that addresses kids missing school he requires the parents to attend and becomes very emotionally upset when absentee fathers don't participate. He passionately believes that if you can intervene in homes where the parents are not doing their jobs, you can save a young life from spiralling further downhill. Joseph Miller is fun person with a huge, big heart and I know he truly loves helping people and everything he does in his truancy court is out of a desire to change those young kids' lives for the better. It in turn, he is creating a safer, healthier and more productive Dallas County. I am proud to call him friend as well and miss the days of him hanging out with our Dallas lawyer group for Friday lunches ! Just seeing Joseph Miller makes me smile and we will have less violent criminals and young lives gone astray as long as he stays on the bench.
It is a wonderful thing when the right people get in positions of power. It makes the world a better place. These gentlemen aren't judges because they need the power, they are judges because the power allows them to give back in big ways. Abraham Lincoln once said "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." Let us all give back with the power we have within us to better life for everyone around us.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
The Great DebateThe Great Debate: Today’s Bad Economy & a Presidential Election
The Oct.3, 2012 Presidential Debate: What Matters, Who Won ?
Over 70 million Americans watched the Denver debate between President Obama and his contender Mitt Romney. Who won ? First- ground rules. Debates should be judged on substance. Personal feelings about candidates should be set aside. Respect for both candidates is necessary in order to properly assess both the strengths and weaknesses. Why is this debate particularly important ? Because we are still suffering from a horrible economy that crashed in 2009 and hasn’t recovered. So here goes as divided by candidates: salient points either pro or con according to the contender.
Romney: “Trickle down government”, the most powerful phrase mentioned in the debate. We all know subconsciously that government is getting bigger but Romney asked a key question, how big does it need to be ? 42% of spending in our US economy is on the government. This is the same percentage as Spain. So, let’s look at Spain ? According to Wikepedia: “Between 2008 and 2012 … almost a quarter of Spain's workforce is currently unemployed.” No thanks. We have had 43 straight months with unemployment over 8%. That’s bad enough. America needs to stand up on its own two feet to provide for its people without government being its main economic industry (an oxymoron). When a huge portion of our population is dependent on the government for their job, exactly like socialist countries, we have ceased to be an enterprising and innovative democracy. Romney has ran successful businesses and understands firsthand what it takes to keep America employed right down to tax issues, overhead, finances and human resource necessities. If we honestly look at Obama’s resume we know Obama understands how to teach a class (constitutional law), write books, and be a very effective government bureaucrat (his state senate and congress years, plus community organizing). A bad economy needs a good and proven businessman. Romney pledged to go after China for unfair trade, another great tactic for balancing out a huge unfair trade imbalance that is costing America jobs. Healthcare ? As governor of Massachusetts ( a state 87% Democratic), he passed a universal health care plan for its citizens (without raising taxed to fund it) that did not involve an unelected board who decides what treatment a patient will get and did so by not raising taxes to afford this plan. To stimulate economic growth, Governor Romney cut taxes 19 times while in office. Poweful facts. Future facts: three fourths of small businesses said they are less likely to hire new employees due to the costs of Obamacare.
Obama: Main theme to his reelection and addressing our national economic woes: increase taxes for upper income people “who have benefited from the opportunities of our country.” Facts, during his 4 years: gas prices have doubled, the average middle income family is $4k worse off, health care prices for everyone is on average $2500 more, there are 10 million more people on food stamps , the national deficit has doubled, 50% of doctors said they won’t take any Medicare or Medicaid patients under Obamacare, and 50% of new college graduates can't find jobs. Assessment, a D- report card for his 4 years as far as the economy is concerned. Good points ? If elected he will close tax loopholes to companies that ship jobs overseas. In his 4 years there has been more energy production (however this has all been private not public production). On banks, he won’t sponsor any more “taxpayer bailouts” .
Bottom line. I love Obama. I even wrote a blog about his first 100 days of office (http://mybarackobamajournal.blogspot.com/2009/01/introduction.html). I admire his intelligence, his will and desire to help people, his dedication to his family and his communication skills. I just wish he had a different message to communicate this time around. I loved his past “Hope” campaign but “Moving Forward” this time around is not appealing to me if it involves an extension of the past 4 years . Of course, I appreciate his service to our country and the contributions he has made despite the economic report card . If elected, I will support him wholeheartedly as I think every citizen should. However, what makes our country great is the fact we have choices. No leader or candidate is perfect. Hence, elections…. There are 3 ways to solve a failing economy: 1. Cut spending 2. Raise taxes 3. Increase revenue. In a downward spiral economy, you can't solve the problems by just raising taxes (Obama’s platform). If we raise taxes disproportionately on our chief innovators (yes, the wealthy who risk life and limb to start up companies and experiment on ideas that turn into industries and jobs) they will be less likely to produce. The answer is not crushing the successful, what is disposable to them and most of all their spirit. That's called insecurity, bitterness and a class warfare this government should be alarmed about not sponsoring. Ask the average American if they would risk everything to end up filing bankruptcy (as did Trump multiple times) or be guaranted a job and security the rest of their life. Most choose the latter, but it's the Trumps who create jobs for us all. “The pursuit of happiness” or the American Dream means you reap what you sow, the harder you work the more you benefit. Entitlement has never been America’s middle name. Our constitution created a democracy not a socialist state. By increasing government, we increase spending. This doesn’t solve the deficit, it grows it. When we reward people for not working there is no incentive to work. We need to raise revenue as Romney said; we need to create more jobs and this will help us cut spending (eg. less people on welfare); we need to cut spending. Bill Clinton was a Rhodes scholar & able to see that by raising revenue you take care of your economic woes. Obama shares the same good hearted Clinton Democratic values but has demonstrated serious lapses of judgment regarding the economy: TARP bailed out the fat cats but had no regulations with teeth resulting in the money never reaching “Main Street”. Obama had good intentions but did not know how to follow through. Having an economic cabinet member in an important position critical to the country with credibility issues did not help (Larry Summers who was forced to step down as President of Harvard after he publicly declared women and girls are genetically less capable to do math and science, unfortunately I kid you not ).
We all want our neighbors, friends, family and the country to be happy, healthy and safe. A recent Netflix documentary called “Happy”points out that once basic necessities are covered money does not make someone happy. Our problem here is twofold: too many people remain unemployed and don’t have the basic means to be happy. Secondly, those of us who are breaking our backs to make others happy are being told we are not doing enough. At the end of the day the old choice of do you give a starving man a fish or teach him how to fish is pertinent. Those of us who want to teach people how to fish want to see our government learn how to fish. They have forgotten how to balance a checkbook and now tell us if you succeed they are coming after you. It’s not a matter of the “haves” versus the “have nots”. It’s a matter of the “have to be responsible” period: the “haves”, the “have nots” the government making tough but “have to” decisions that are fair to everyone. Democrats and Republicans alike “have” to work together, all of us, taking off “party” designations. We don’t “have” to be a Democrat, Republican or Independent.We should vote our conscience whatever party that is. We “have” to be smart as a country if we want our children to have fair opportunities and if we are to remain a world leader. Ask yourself at the ballot box and watching these debates : Move Forward or Time for a New Game Plan ? I know what my answer is…..
My favorite line of the debate ? Responding to a point of contention with Obama, Romney said “I have 5 boys, I’m use to them thinking if they keep on saying it I will believe it’s true….” It’s good to laugh when we disagree and just like Romney said, it’s in people’nature to keep on doing or saying what they think they need to- to accomplish an objective. Let’ recognize this but stay true to truth while respecting everyone in the process. We all want the same thing, what’s good for America. Everyone, vote…. It matters.
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
Buffoonery in Blood Testing(This blog was spurred on by my conversation today with Texas DPS lab analyst in Austin that agreed to talk to me after my dissatisfaction with the noncompliance of 2 subpoena duces tecums. Specifically, "I need the mathematical analysis worksheet to verify the numbers.." Response: "We don't have that." Then: "I need the calibration curve report so that I can do my own mathematical verification..." Response: "We use single point calibration." The most concerning statement was that they just have "the machine do the numbers." To the analyst's credit he does not write the regulations, he is responsive and direct in telling me what the lab can and can't provide but my job is not to make nice nice, my job is to get the data, analyze the data and render a professional opinion to my client as to its validity. Clearly it is time for all us Americans to demand better in our labs. It is time to educate the judges so they don't tolerate this and require proper scientific protocols. It is time for the legislature to understand that nothing is more important than one's liberty (NO not health care, social security, taxes...) and for them to regulate toxicology lab work via proper scientific procedures that are well established and the best and most cutting edge in the scientific community. The "ASCLD" lab certification that government labs have (because most can't qualify for any other) is a scientific joke. For mere insight: http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2012/03/is-ascldlab-crime-lab-accreditation.html It is truly time that we bring truth to "government science."
Now back to blood testing: gas chromatography blood tests are only as good as the math behind the numbers generated by each chromatogram. The math is only as good as the formulas/calibrations used. In the scientific peer review community it is well established that you cannot calculate a slope from a single point. In order to calibrate you must verify at more than one point. At minimal you use 3-5 points (the more the better). Texas DPS, probably the largest crime lab in the US (except maybe to California) uses a single point calibration. They do not mathematically verify any of the machine's calculations in DWI blood testing. What does this mean ? I quote the Institute for Chromatography "The single point calibration line is source of serious quantity errors." There is no way to accurately mathematically quanitify the % of error using a single point. My fellow Texans, this is no different than craps.... the number is just a random one. Time for the bullshit to end. As a defense lawyer I am crushed with emotion thinking about all the people who have been convicted trusting the Texas DPS labs.
Some great basic textbook reading on GC calibration: http://www.interchromforum.com/html/sampling_calibration.html
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
A TOTAL REFUSAL IS NOT PROBABLE CAUSE !The Boiling Coffey Pot: last night I find out a sweet, bright young new lawyer (I mentored her by letting her sit second chair for experience) got arrested for DWI by Keller PD cop Hicks (badge # 154) after she got pulled over for not using a turn signal and telling him she only had one drink. Naturally, she refused all the tests (as he wasn't believing her) and he got a warrant for her blood. Result ? No ethanol. The DA refused to file her case. The ALR judge suspended her license even with evidence of the ZERO ethanol toxicology report ! Bullshit. Here is what is wrong with this picture: the fact that the cop arrested her for probable cause in the first place. Saying NO to everything because the cop has NOTHING is NOT probable cause to arrest and it is high time cops, da(s), and judges start holding them to this and throwing out total refusal bullshit arrests. JYou either have evidence or you don't ! This is not the middle east, we as free American citizens DON"T HAVE TO prove anything. Typical descriptors like "odor of alcohol and bloodshot eyes" is NOT probable cause. Jimminy Christmas. I swear to God, this type of behavior is worse than Communism.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Little Ray of Sunshine on a Possession CaseTarrant County ray of sunshine in court today :)
Promised a DA I would "blog" about this today (her request). Had a possession case (hydrocodone) of which my client had a prescription, just grabbed the wrong pills (her roommate's). Asked for a dismissal in the interest of justice under the facts and the DA did one better- she said Mimi, I am going to dismiss her case because of all the rehab she did on her own for the DWI (concurrent case). Badass. Love DAs that see the bigger picture. Nice, clean, dismissal....... ah, life is good....
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Gays in the Military
In my 6 year quest of reading books on Founding Fathers decided to read a book on Baron Von Steuben, the amazing Prussian/German military genius who proved a godsend to George Washington by introducing order, discipline & rules into the American Army (even wrote the army's first blue book). It turns out he is gay. It's a shame we don't teach this in schools & in our history books. It would make this whole ridiculous controversy over gay policies in the military moot.
I recommend the book "The Drillmaster of Valley Forge" by Paul Lockhart
Friday, June 29, 2012
DWI Common Courtroom Mistruths
DWI Common Courtroom Mistruths
Jurors don’t realize that most police officers and prosecutors have no idea what they are really talking about when it comes to HGN and breath testing in the courtroom. Cops take a 24 hour NHTSA course and walk away thinking if the government sponsors this it must be right. The truth is there is very little science to the HGN (don’t get me started on the rest of the circus acts). I will address two very common mistruths.
1. Can caffeine and fatigue cause HGN ? Cops always answer no. They are wrong. There are 38 cited causes for HGN they have been recognized by the courts: “They include: (1) problems with the inner ear labyrinth; (2) irrigating the ears with warm or cold water under peculiar weather conditions; (3) influenza; (4) streptococcus infection; (5) vertigo; (6) measles; (7) syphilis; (8) arteriosclerosis; (9) muscular dystrophy; (10) multiple sclerosis; (11) Kerchiefs syndrome; (12) brainhemorrhage; (13) epilepsy; (14) hypertension; (15) motion sickness; (16) sunstroke; (17) eye strain; (18) eye muscle fatigue; (19) glaucoma; (20) changes in atmospheric pressure; (21) consumption of excessive amounts of caffeine; (22) excessive exposure to nicotine; (23) aspirin; (24) circadian rhythms; (25) acute trauma to the head; (26) chronic trauma to the head; (27) some prescription drugs, tranquilizers, pain medications, anti-consultants; (28) barbiturates; (29) disorders of the vestibular apparatus and brain stem; (30) cerebellum dysfunction; (31) heredity; (32) diet; (33) toxins; (34) exposure to solvents, PCBS, dry cleaning fumes, carbon monoxide; (34) extreme chilling; (35) eye muscle imbalance; (36) lesions; (37) continuous movement of the visual field past the eyes, i.e., looking from a moving train; and (38) antihistamine use.” Schultz v. State, 664 A.2d 60, 77 (Md.App. 1995), citing, inter alia, Mark A. Rouleau, Unreliability of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, 4 AmJur. Proof of Facts 3d 439 (1989); Louise J. Gordy & Roscoe N. Gray, 3A Attorney 's Textbook of Medicine §§ 84.63 and 84.64 (1990).
Other great resources that second the opinion in Schultz include the famous Horn case by Federal Judge Grimm, 185 F.Supp.2d 530 (D.Md 2002) . In it he tears down the walls of false science behind all the sfst(s): “Dr. Burns is perhaps the most ardent advocate of the SFSTs at issue in this case, having participated in the original NHTSA studies that developed them, and thereafter as an ubiquitous-and peripatetic-prosecution expert witness testifying in favor of their accuracy and reliability in a host of state cases, over a course of many years. See cases cited infra at pp. 552 - 553. Despite her enthusiasm for the tests that she helped to develop, few, if any, courts have agreed with her that the SFSTs, taken alone or collectively, are sufficiently reliable to be used as direct evidence of specific BAC…”Dr. Booker wrote a great article on HGN that is scientifically peer reviewed (of which none of the Dr. Burns SFST research is): Booker, J. L. (2001). End-position nystagmus as an indictor of ethanol intoxication. Science and Justice, 41(2), 113-116. Other excellent ones that are eye opening which should be mandatory reading for all judges include: Nowaczyk, R. H., & Cole, S. (1995). Separating myth from fact: A review of research on the field sobriety tests. The Champion, 19(7), 40-43. Rubenzer, S. J. (2003a). The psychometrics and science of the standardized field sobriety tests, Part 1. The Champion, 27(4), 48-54.Rubenzer, S. J. (2003b). The psychometrics and science of the standardized field sobriety tests, Part 2 The Champion, 27(5), 40-44Booker, J. L. (2004). The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test: Fraudulent science in the American courts. Science & Justice, 44(3), 133-139.
2. The second big lie that gets asked in breath test cases is: “Is it true that the longer you blow the higher the score and why is that ?” The state scientist always answers: “Yes, but that is because you are getting deep lung air which is more accurate.” Not true. It is true that the longer you blow, the higher the score but it is not true that the alcohol value will be more accurate because you are getting deep lung air. The problem starts with a faulty premise. Breath testing is not an accurate reflection of one’s true alcohol value in the blood. Dr. Michael Hlastala is the world’s most qualified scientist when it comes to pulmonology and alcohol breath testing. He is so well respected that I was in his presence when an esteemed Borkenstein faculty member Rod Gullberg (for those who don’t know Borkenstein is where they train government scientists) asked Dr. Hlastala if he would consider getting involved with the Borkenstein training. Dr. Hlastala has many published works on the issues of actual breath exchange and alcohol. To quote him “No alcohol originates from the pulmonary circulation in the alveoli. The fact that alcohol comes primarily from the airways is why the breath alcohol concentration can be so easily changed by changing the breathing pattern. This contributes to the very large variation in the alcohol breath test readings obtainedfrom actual subjects.” It should be mandatory that all judges be familiar with as required readings his works and others that include (just for starters):
Dynamics of soluble gas exchange in the airways III. Single-exhalation breathing maneuver. by Steven C. George, Albert L. Babb, and Michael P. Hlastala.1993.Soluble gas exchange in the pulmonary airways of sheep. by Schimmel, Carmel, Susan L. Bernard, Joseph C. Anderson, Nayak L. Polissar, S. Lakshminarayan, and Michael P. Hlastala. 2003
Modeling soluble gas exchange in the airways and alveoli. by Joseph C. Anderson, Albert L. Babb, and Michael P. Hlastala, 2003
Conducting airway gas exchange: diffusion-related differences in inert gas elimination. by Erik R. Swenson, H. Thomas Robertson, Nayak L. Pollisar, Mical E. Middaugh, and Michael P. Hlastala. 1992
Diffusion of nonelectrolytes in the canine trachea: effect of tight junction. by Steven C. George, Albert L. Babb, Mark E. Deffebach, and Michael P. Hlastala. 1996
A fractal analysis of the radial distribution of bronchial capillaries around large airways. by Joseph C. Anderson, Albert L. Babb, and Michael P. Hlastala. 2005
Accurate measurement of blood alcohol concentration with isothermal rebreathing. by J. Ohlsson, D.D. Ralph, M.A. Mandelkorn, A. L. Babb, and M. P. Hlastala, 1990
Modeling steady-state inert gas exchange in the canine trachea. by Steven C. George, Jennifer E. Souders, Albert L. Babb, and Michael P. Hlastala. 1995
Tracheal gas exchange: perfusion-related differences in inert gas elimination. by Jennifer E. Souders, Steven C. George, Nayak L. Polissar, Erik R. Swenson, and Michael P. Hlastala. 1995
Paradigm Shift for the Alcohol Breath Test. by Michael P. Hlastala, Ph.D. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Physiological Errors Associated with Alcohol Breath Testing, by Michael P. Hlastala, Ph.D. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
"Alcohol Breath Test -- A Review" by Hlastala, MP.
(Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Invited Editorial on "The Alcohol Breath Test", by Michael P. Hlastala, Ph.D.
Breathing-Related Limitations to the Alcohol Breath Test, by Michael P. Hlastala, Ph.D. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
The Impact of Breathing Pattern and Lung Size on the Alcohol Breath Test, by Michael P. Hlastala and Joseph C. Anderson. In Annals of Biomedical Engineering. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
The Alcohol Breath Test is Biased against Individuals with Smaller Lung Volume, by Michael P. Hlastala; in Law & Science 23(11): 1-5, 2008. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Breath Tests and Airway Gas Exchange, by Anderson, JC and MP Hlastala. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Saturday, June 02, 2012
Recent Fort Worth Star Telegram Article (Interlock Monopoly) & More
Recent Fort Worth Star Telegram Article (Interlock Monopoly) & More
First and foremost I must stress that I was born and raised in Tarrant County. I am proud of my Cowtown roots. After graduating law school at Texas Tech I came back to Fort Worth to serve my people. I have always been proud of the friendliness, hardiness, and ambition that represents the Fort Worth mentality. In seventeen years I have expanded my practice into Dallas and Collin Counties. I literally live in both Tarrant and Dallas counties (spending half the week in each). This allows me to be a more versatile, open minded lawyer adapting and molding to the keen differences that Dallas and Collin Counties offer. This being said, I believe it puts me in a unique position to stress tyranny and bad practices when I see it. I can’t stand injustice but when it morphs into institutional practices to the detriment of its people it is up to the good hearted to speak out (whether lawyer, citizen or judge).
Most people think that going to jail can never happen to them so they don’t concern themselves with issues that affect everyone in the justice system until they find themselves in it and are helpless. I speak as a lawyer and citizen, not just from the defense lawyer side because if I was a prosecutor I would care just as much that these things be fair, especially if I was a judge.
Here are just a few bullet points that merit attention.
1. Yesterday’s Star Telegram reported the Tarrant County Commissioners Court has determined to give a monopoly y to just ONE interlock provider and it happens to be the company of a well-connected judge’s wife (whom I adore them both and have only good things to say about the interlock company). Now from a practical side, what does this mean? If the interlock company wants to start charging $500 for the device versus the industry standard of $75, who is going to stop them? No other county in Texas has this illegal and antitrade operation going on. All providers are required to satisfy probation standards to be approved, but limit the entire community to one? Let the market earn their share. What happens if this one provider pisses a judge off? Guess what folks, nothing good can come of this for any side involved.
2. The Tarrant County DA does not allow defense attorneys to give copies of the police report or even the DWI videos to their clients. There is no legal authority by statute for this DA office policy. Dallas and Collin counties do not do this. The Constitution guarantees a defendant the right to confront their accuser. The Founders did not have videos then but I am sure they would require such if they did. It was a given then and still is today in most counties that a defendant is entitled to a copy of the information against them. Now from a practical side, what does this mean? The DA’s witnesses get to own it (cops), take it home and study and prepare for hours, but defendants are limited to going over the particulars of the reports and videos in their lawyer’s office. If the DA in certain cases was concerned about victim’s addresses this could just be blacked out (as Dallas does). So message to the Tarrant County DA: when we win it makes us 10x the lawyer you are. I guess the defense bar in Tarrant County is just so good that the DAs have to literally hogtie our clients’ hands in preparation for their own defense.
3. You know the old phrase “You can beat the rap but you can’t beat the ride?” That’s what happens once the handcuffs go on, it’s not supposed to happen with the justice system. The justice system should be a fair administration of justice. We live in a modern age of fax machines, emails and smartphones. Even traffic ticket courts don’t require a defendant to physically appear for each and every court date if they have a lawyer. In a DWI, no court date even matters until after the ALR hearing and the DA has turned over the police report and video (sometimes these videos take several court dates to track down). Yet people are taking off hard earned vacation days and missing work for superfluous kindergarten roll calls. Example: the judge calls out “Mr. Smith”? Mr. Smith sits there like a lump on a log and his lawyer says “Present with Counsel”, then Mr. Smith leaves (often times after hours) only to come back and do it multiple more times before anything of any consequence occurs. Seriously? It takes three lawyers in my Fort Worth office to take care of this versus one in Dallas (where the clients only appear on important dates). Now from a practical side what does this mean? John Q. Smith of the public may wait for four hours at the dentist office because his dentist had an appearance that could have been avoided. One of my clients missed fifteen days of work over two years before he got a Not Guilty. He was lucky to keep his job, unlike many.
People resist change but change is good and sometimes necessary. In Tarrant County for moral reasons and respect for its citizens, the time for change is now.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Is the Texas Judicial System of Electing Judges the Best One ?
I ask you. Two recent fact scenarios. Had a guy on a 10 year DWI felony probation who had 2 interlock violations (the machine in your car) in one month 2 years after he started probation. Both blows were well below the legal limit. One of these blows involved him just attempting to start the car for nondriving purposes. While waiting for the Motion to Revoke hearing he was on SCRAM (ankle monitor that measures your sweat for alcohol via satellite) for over 100 days with NO alcohol violations and he started an intense rehab program (at his own expense) where he was progressing well. His options with the judge who oversees the SAFP program (conflict of interest ? I ask you !) for all courts (SAFP is a “treatment” program in prison that costs taxpayers $30k a prisoner where they will spend close to a year in prison with over a 75% recidivism rate) : SAFP (wow, what a surprise !) or prison. He took the 2 years prison rather than suffer the humiliation of SAFP (described as a “militaristic approach”; imagine what that means when you are sitting in prison with no rights) and 8 more years of continued probation under a judge who wanted to put him in SAFP to begin with. The thing about SAFP is that you end up losing everything: your home, your job, your family. If you didn’t have a drinking problem before you sure have one now. This guy was supporting a daughter through college and another household as a result of divorce. Now the family will be on welfare and we all get to hear how taxes are increasing as we shoulder an ever increasing trend of locking up nonviolent offenders. How effective is that for treatment ? We the taxpayers foot the bill when he could have been monitored at his own expense and paying for his own counseling ??
Another recent case, a decorated Vietnam vet was on probation and made it 8 out of 10 years before he broke down and admitted to his probation officer that times were tough and he relapsed and did some drugs. He was immediately given a drug test (proved negative) and based on his statement alone was told at sentencing by the judge that NO ONE had ever successfully completed the 10 year probation out of that court and sentenced to 10 years. Yup, a guy that served to protect our country’s freedom and the very people that are in the legal business to help him punish him for being honest. They stress to you in probation to always “be honest”. Now seriously ? Knowing all this- what incentive would anyone ever have to be so ? Guess what the best part is ? Our laws are structured to where there is NO appeal from a probation revocation. Now we get to pay for this Vietnam Veteran to rot in jail where at his age and condition he will probably die. Justice ? I think not. Call it for what it is: tyranny.
They say that the worst thing is for good people to do nothing when injustice happens. I’m speaking out. I’m giving my opinion as a 17 year professional dedicated to ensuring justice. Why and how is this happening ? Why do we give one judge so much power ? In some European countries they have panels of 3 and specialized panels where the judges have expertise in those areas. We elect politicians so why not elect judges so the argument goes. Well, politicians don’t have the power to put you in jail. Many legal scholars as well as the public have advocated leaving the election of judges behind for more qualified selection processes. There was a PBS documentary on it and here is a New York Times editorial: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/14/opinion/l14judge.html . There is even a national organization: AJS: American Judicature Society, a society “for promoting the effective administration of justice.” Their facts, figures, statistics and information on how many states have abandoned the judicial election process can be found at : http://www.judicialselection.us/ . Now, sure there are great judges and I will go to the ends of the earth to see them reelected but they are the rare exceptions. The phrase “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” is a maxim for a reason. Most people are not equipped with the requisite personality and character traits it takes to administer absolute power with tempered and reasoned judgment. Let the good judges earn their seats due to their distinction, not because they have the campaign itch and coffers to make it happen. There are two places where no one wants to go unless you are getting married or having a baby and that is the courthouse and the hospital. In both of these scenarios there is not much of anything we can do if we end up here save nature, good doctors or being lucky enough to land in the right court. This is why we all as citizens concerned about “justice for all” as the Founding Fathers envisioned should be concerned and do something now. Great lawyers deserve to lead by being judges. Tyrants on benches don’t deserve or need power. When we elect judges we have it all backwards. Those judges who are doing a great job will no doubt be chosen by judicial qualification panels to continue to do so. Those judges who don’t belong in seats of power with which to inflict harm to others inappropriately will no doubt be passed over. If you care about the great state of Texas having the best judicial system it is time for change: contact your legislators, join the AJS, get involved. Do it because you care.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
A Key to Understanding How Justice HappensI have recently expanded my practice to Collin County and every time I go out there I am in shock and amazement of how wonderful an experience it is. First my observations: everyone from the bailiffs, DAs, court administrative staff and judges are so polite, pleasant, helpful and quite frankly many are beautiful/handsome (so much so that I have nicknamed Collin County "Hollywood"). This last observation seems superficial but it is factual and I think it actually proves my theory.... When I drive out there it is such a pleasant experience: all the new stores, new architecture, cleanliness, and variety of choices on everything. It has dawned on me that the general atmosphere in the air has the pregnant hope of the positivity of the US in the 1950s: a time when the "Leave it to Beaver" attitude was so pervasive. Hope is in the air about everything in Collin County from the amazing array of choices at the QT (never saw a fancier one right down to the whipped cream machine for your coffee) to the better selections of their department stores. Everyone seems to be smiling and optimistic. So what is happening ???? Well, the facts are: the economy is bursting at the seams, the population growth is exploding, and what the surveys are saying about Collin County being one of the best places to live and migrate to in the United States is true ! Hope, happiness, better quality of life.... No wonder that the DAs are so pleasant, the judges so charitable, forgiving and accommodating. I find myself in a super happy mood while in Collin County whether it's at court or shopping at Ross or getting a fancy latte at the QT. My observations (compounded upon years of trial experience and figuring out that happy people make the best jurors) have cemented my theory: "Where there is hope, there is charity. Where there is misery, there is no mercy." I sure hope Tarrant and Dallas counties start implementing what the Collin County municipalities are doing in tax incentives to attract businnesses and stimulate economic growth. When you have a great economy springing from every direction, one need not be depressed driving through the depressed and dilapidated city eyesores that lead to misery in many ways that everyone is subjected to from job loss to negativity. There is a reason why they say "Hope springs eternal." That is because hope makes the world a better place. Collin County is a recipe for bringing the rest of Texas back. Hope, happiness, beauty in all forms brings much more goodness to the world than misery. Now if we could only work on that for the betterment of all systems including:the judicial, law enforcement, economy, & education. I always walk away from unreasonable and difficult da(s) and judges wondering "what went wrong with that person" ? Now, I think perhaps the good ones are the exception to the rule. The problem is that misery is symptomatic on many levels. We owe it to eachother to do what we can on a societal level to bring back happiness for everyone. To do this we need smart and enterprising leaders to implement innovative change. We need to reduce big government and regulations not increase it as we have done. Collin County understands that enterprise is the solution. This is a very Ben Franklin way of thinking, but one's personal happiness for others must start with systematic societal good decisions. Kudos to Collin County. You guys are doing it all right....
Sunday, April 08, 2012
Justice"Profiteers" and "Privateers" close in semantics and in meaning. The former meaning a person in today's society who capitalizes on a profit making opportunity. The latter a term dubbed on pirates who sailed the seas in search of loot. I am currently reading a biography (in my Founding Father quest) on the father of the US Navy: John Paul Jones. His character was impeccable. His mariner skills keen. His spirit to fight injustice unparalleled. As a Scotch sailor, he quickly joined the American bandwagon for "equality for all" versus a society of the privileged based on monarchy. Everything he did (his raiding of the English coasts in retaliation for the British raiding & burning of American eastern seacoasts), his sea battles, his diplomatic overtures in France were made on principle: to secure democracy for everyone. Yet his detractors claimed he was a "Privateer", a pirate. He had many opportunities to profit as a privateer but did not. His main goal at sea was to capture British ships for American use and secure British prisoners to exchange them for American prisoners. He faced each obstacle with dignity and ultimately overcame each one placed in his path due to his patience, temperance and passion he possessed in fighting for the just principles of equality.
My detractors call me a "Profiteer" claiming I do it for the money. Had one felony DA say it to my face. They are wrong. I go to Austin to fight unjust DWI laws. If I wanted to profit, I would do what many do (which is nothing, stay out of it) or I would be on the side of the interlock industry (the strongest DWI lobbyist when it comes to legislation) and the prosecutors because the more severe the DWI laws, the more opportunity for profit. My record is clear. In the past 4 legislative sessions I have been the most consistent obstacle to stricter DWI laws. When Texas got rid of the 10 year rule for DWIs only myself and one other attorney fought the interlock industry in Austin (they stood to profit more by removing the 10 year rule). I wish DWIs could be treated for what they really are not the overzealous, right wing moral crusade MADD has made it to be. Less than 3500 people die from DWI a year (real numbers not NHTSA's "alcohol related" 14k). This is not justification for overtaking our highway billboards with scare tactics of "Drink.Drive.Go to Jail." which is not even the law. Most people who drink and drive and are pulled over and have hurt no one. Some cop on a DWI quota pulled them over for some minor traffic infraction. They are then subjected to tests no better than what teenage girls used in the Salem Witch Hunt trials, simply put: specious evidence our courts without proper scientific training are letting them get away with. Our justice system has become a haven to these wild zealots whose aim is neoprohibition (history repeats itself). The politicians (judges) and elected DAs feel captive as the old adage goes "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." MADD representatives show up to court, bring cakes and goodies and now even sponsor chili cook offs for the DAs. Simply put: their presence is unmistakeable right down to the DAs' DWI "office policies". The reality is that this extreme sect (MADD) has consistently been ranked one of the country's worst charities (I cite Wikepedia). Those who believe one should never drink anything and drive are not the majority.
I went to law school to learn a trade where I have been blessed with talents: analytical skills, debate and speech. My character for equality and fairness led me to the fight against injustice in DWI. Nothing would make me happier than if cops started only arresting legitimate DWIs (not these pretext stops for speeding, etc. by local bars). I would do what I do no matter what it paid. I definitely would not spend my time and my own expense travelling across the country teaching other lawyers about the injustice of DWI and how best to defend it if I was only in it for profit. If I was selfish I would not choose a profession in which I am in trial the majority of the year, which includes weekends getting ready for trial. My dedication to justice in DWI has caused me intangible sacrifices of time with my family that I can never get back. Being a lawyer, there are a whole lot of other options that both pay more, involve less work and that are not vilified. In the spirit of John Paul Jones, I fight to make the world a fair place for all of us and to use his famous words: "I have not yet begun to fight."
Mimi Coffey, Sr.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Modern Day Hero Judge Julia HayesIn the hustle and bustle of life often great deeds go unmentioned, particularly at the courthouse. It is uplifting and inspiring to hear and share stories of heroic deeds that all too often go unnoticed and deserve mention. Two Fridays ago on March 2, 2012 I popped into Dallas County Criminal Court no.2 to say Hi to the judge & report on the status of an upcoming trial when I witnessed her in the middle of busting a plea. A skinny 17 year old African American high school kid in his orange jail jumpersuit handcuffed behind his back was addressing the judge from behind the counsel table. With her quick wit, she quickly sized up the kid and asked him when he was going to graduate. He meekly stated “in the summer.” She asked him what his criminal trespass case was. He replied that he got caught playing basketball after allowed hours and was warned before not to play past dark (per the apt rules). She asked why he had a theft charge. He explained that he took the school drum home (the one assigned to him in band) to practice that night and was going to bring it back the next day and never had a chance to explain that to anyone at the school. She asked him who lived at home with him (a single mom) and wanted to know what level of supervision there was (practically none). His court appointed lawyer had already had him sign the plea papers for credit for time served (he had been in jail for 2 weeks with no money to bond out) which would have been a quick fix but a lifetime of job rejection due to a theft conviction (crime of moral turpitude) on his permanent record. She busted the plea and gave him deferred probations as the kid had no record and told him if he straightened up he would have both cases dismissed and a chance at having a fair shot at life. Serious emotion overwhelmed me as I witnessed her kindness and compassion and quick intelligence render justice to a situation that otherwise would have ruined the young kid’s life forever. Young people make mistakes. Their frontal lobes are not fully developed until they are 21. Young kids make stupid decisions, that’s why Tarrant County has a dismissal DPP program for kids under 21 that commit similar offenses. Although it appeared no one in the school, or even his mom cared, Julia stepped in and gave the kid a chance. That kid will probably spend the rest of his life thinking about how she addressed him, cared and placed confidence and hope in him. Judge Julia Hayes is a modern day hero. Dallas County is blessed to have such a smart, great judge who truly makes the world a better place.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
My Firm's Slide Showhttp://www.kizoa.com/slideshow/d2181972kP108560995o2/coffey-firm
Monday, December 19, 2011
How to Solve the Nation's Drug IssuesAs a criminal defense lawyer I am in the middle of the muddy judicial system which is broken and in need of repair. Moral crusading politicians get on their high horses pandering to the ignorant masses (as in not informed & educated on issues) that respond well to catchy tag lines, commercials & speeches. The next thing you know we have more harsh laws, more people arrested and we are building more prisons. The prosecutors try to justify to themselves that their punishments stop property crimes and other offenses related to drug use. Me & other defense lawyers are spinning around so fast on the merry go round of fighting the DAs' approach of harshly convicting or unreasonably probating everyone (probation conditions so onerous they might as well be in jail) that everyone including the judges lose sight of the big picture . What solves people's drug issues ? Is throwing a kid in prison for years over crack possession gonna change him when he gets out (he is worse) ? Are we spending our tax dollars wisely ? What is in society's best interest ?
I've always felt there was something not right with what started out as Reagan's "War on Drugs" (even though I love Reagan, an actor not a justice scholar does he make). I have shared the sadness of too many clients being punished for something that should be treated like a disease and health issue not one reflective of an evil minded real criminal. Well the government of Portugal was smart enough to think outside the box & decriminalized all drug offenses and assigned their Health Department to take over. The results ? Drug addiction declined as well as the crimes that addicted people desperate for drugs will do (property crimes). Their story is a remarkably successful one. How can the greatest country on earth be the meanest when it comes to caring for its weakest citizens (we incarcerate more people than most third world countries) ? Time we be smart on crime and not aimlessly & maliciously "tough". Time we reevaluate our DWI laws too that just aim at punishing social drinkers (otherwise we would not use non scientific circus acts called field sobriety tests and widely known inaccurate breath tests to incarcerate and wrongly convict people).
Here is one of the world's smartest and wealthiest men's take:Richard Branson's blog on the "War on Drugs":
Visited Portugal, as one of the Global Drug Commissioners, to congratulate them on the success of their drug policies over the last 10 years.Ten years ago the Portuguese Government responded to widespread public concern over drugs by rejecting a “war on drugs” approach and instead decriminalized drug possession and use. It further rebuffed convention by placing the responsibility for decreasing drug demand as well as managing dependency under the Ministry of Health rather than the Ministry of Justice. With this, the official response towards drug-dependent persons shifted from viewing them as criminals to treating them as patients.Now with a decade of experience Portugal provides a valuable case study of how decriminalization coupled with evidence-based strategies can reduce drug consumption, dependence, recidivism and HIV infection and create safer communities for all.I will set out clearly what I learned from my visit to Portugal and would urge other countries to study this:In 2001 Portugal became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines.Jail time was replaced with offer of therapy. (The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is much more expensive than treatment).Under Portugal’s new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker, and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.Critics in the poor, socially conservative and largely Catholic nation said decriminalizing drug possession would open the country to “drug tourists” and exacerbate Portugal’s drug problem; the country has some of the highest levels of hard-drug use in Europe. The recently realised results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute, suggest otherwise.The paper, published by Cato in April 2011, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.Compared to the European Union and the US, Portugal drug use numbers are impressive.Following decriminalization, Portugal has the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the EU: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%, Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%. Drug use in older teens also declined. Life time heroin use among 16-18 year olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8%.New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003.Death related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half.The number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and the considerable money saved on enforcement allowed for increase funding of drug – free treatment as well.Property theft has dropped dramatically (50% - 80% of all property theft worldwide is caused by drug users).America has the highest rates of cocaine and marijuana use in the world, and while most of the EU (including Holland) has more liberal drug laws than the US, it also has less drug use.Current policy debate is that it’s based on “speculation and fear mongering”, rather than empirical evidence on the effect of more lenient drug policies. In Portugal, the effect was to neutralize what had become the country’s number one public health problem.Decriminalization does not result in increased drug use.Portugal’s 10 year experiment shows clearly that enough is enough. It is time to end the war on drugs worldwide. We must stop criminalising drug users. Health and treatment should be offered to drug users – not prison. Bad drugs policies affect literally hundreds of thousands of individuals and communities across the world. We need to provide medical help to those that have problematic use – not criminal retribution.