Best Lawyer - 1999
Miami's own comeback counselor, former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey, pulled off the legal achievement of the year when he ousted a sitting mayor. Coffey argued in Miami-Dade Circuit Court that Joe Carollo lost the November 1997 Miami mayoral election owing to rampant fraud among absentee balloting. He was convincing. In March 1998 Judge Thomas Wilson, Jr., booted Xavier Suarez, the putative titleholder. The expulsion survived an appeals court hearing. The episode occupies a special place in the tropical hothouse of Miami politics, and not just because of the dead man who voted or the arrest of a campaign worker for buying absentee ballots. This was significant because it also signaled Coffey's return to the limelight. In 1996 the federal prosecutor resigned his post after he was accused of biting a dancer in a strip club. To his credit though, the chagrined Coffey didn't flee town. He stuck around, rightly believing that our collective memory would evaporate like a puddle after a summer shower. Then new opportunities blossomed. It was worth the wait for him. What's getting caught taking a little love bite compared to toppling a corrupt government?