Kendall Coffey on Assisted Suicide, Campaign Finance

Attorney Kendall Coffey

Kendall Coffey appeared on the Steve Malzberg Show on October 10 to discuss legal views on current cases.  Malzberg asked Kendall Coffey about cases involving assisted suicide, spanking versus child abuse, Aaron Hernandez and the Supreme Court’s ruling on campaign finance.


A woman in Pennsylvania gave her terminally ill father a bottle of morphine.  Authorities arrested her on charges of assisted suicide, punishable by up to ten years in prison.  There is a question of whether authorities should have charged the woman, and defense attorneys are saying there is no way to prove that the morphine actually killed the father.

Flickr CC via Ben Bashford

Kendall Coffey commented, “It hits all of us emotionally. My father is 92, thankfully he is still alive, but so many of us face these diffic

ult decisions. And what the law says as of now in virtually all states is that there may be a moral justification but legally speaking assisted suicide is still a crime in most places.  You would think the authorities would use discretion and think well is this a criminal or is this a loving daughter?… Obviously there was no kind of criminal intent remotely in this scenario. It seems like a situation where families should be left alone.  Tragedies should be respected and not judged.”

A woman with charges against her for child abuse for beating her child with a wooden spoon had her case dropped this week.  There is a struggle with parents worried about punishing their children for fear of being arrested.

“You ask somebody in Florida about that and all we can think about that is the many times when social workers have failed to see the instances of child abuse, and how many times we read about the deaths of children because the social workers claim they have too many things to be doing and keeping track of it.  A wooden spoon? I don’t know what the extent of bruising was but it doesn’t look like anything in this suggests the acts of a criminal.”

wooden spoon
Flickr CC via Communication Milestones

The Supreme Court is currently considering limits on campaign finance limitations. Conservatives generally call caps on election contributions from an individual a violation of free speech, while liberals worry that loosening limitations would give too much power to the wealthy.

“I think conservatives as well as liberals would acknowledge that this is free speech.  Your ability to advocate your views in the political world is about as fundamental a thing as our founding fathers were focused on. So this is the heart of what first amendment free speech is about. So whether you are getting your message out by standing on a street corner holding a sign or doing it by funding candidates in causes you believe in it’s pretty clearly free speech. So the question is what are the justifications for limiting free speech, and as you know you have a really strong one for limiting something that is constitutionally protected. So, the issue in a case like is if you maintain a cap over a two-year cycle and that is all you can personally contribute, what is the justification for that? Is there a record that says keeping that cap in place will reduce corruption in politics? They just don’t have the evidence to point out that it will have any such impact.

And consider a few other things. In the last election cycle there were a lot of allegations about super billionaires putting a lot of their own money into the election, but both sides had plenty of money.  It is very difficult to say that a few people have hijacked the system when there are so many different ways for candidates to raise money.  I think the allegation that caps are protecting us from corruption or protecting the system from the few controlling everything and disenfranchising those who are not wealthy are not very compelling at this point.”