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Federal court of appeals rules in favor of miami criminal lawyer

Posted on October 27, 2009 3:00 AM EST

On Monday, October 26, 2009, a Miami criminal lawyer had a ruling upheld in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which could eventually keep him out of prison. The federal appellate court ruled that Ben Kuehne cannot be legally charged for receiving legal fees from money that was illegally obtained. The ruling should put all Miami criminal defense lawyers at ease. With the large volume of drug trafficking, mortgage fraud and Medicare fraud cases in the Miami and South Florida area, many of the fees received in these cases by criminal attorneys come from proceeds obtained through the operation of a criminal enterprise.

The federal appellate court upheld the ruling handed down by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke. Cooke granted Kuehne's defense lawyer's motion to dismiss the count of money laundering. Cooke granted the dismissal based on a Congressional exemption which precludes defense lawyers from being prosecuted under the federal money-laundering statute. The exemption was mandated by Congress who sought to protect a defendant's Sixth Amendment privilege to hire counsel of their choice.

Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Rosemary Barkett disagreed with the Department of Justice's argument that a Supreme Court Decision negated the Congressionally mandated exemption. Judge Barkett issued a nine page opinion which disagreed with government's argument that illegally tainted money does not fall within the exemption. Barkett wrote, "We do not believe Congress intended such an absurd result, which nullifies the provision and divorces it from its statutory content, thereby violating basic canons of statutory construction."

Kuehne's attorney was gratified by the decision rendered by the appellate court. A Miami criminal defense attorney who assisted in writing the appellate brief was also satisfied with result which limits the federal government from impeding on an individual's Sixth Amendment rights. Also indicted in the case are Kuehne's Columbian accountant and a Columbian attorney, Oscar Saldarriaga.

Kuehne is a well-known Miami criminal defense attorney who has appeared in many high-profile cases. Attorneys throughout Miami and South Florida have backed Kuehne since he was indicted by the federal government. The dismissal of the money laundering charge removed the most serious charge from the indictment.

11th Circuit Sides with Defense Attorney Over Legal Fees, Law.com, October 27, 2009.
Categories: Appeals