Former colleagues discuss Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh’s South Florida ties

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WSVN) — A former U.S. attorney told 7News about the impact President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, had in several South Florida cases.

On Tuesday, Kavanaugh was on Capital Hill to meet with lawmakers about his confirmation, but his real work began years ago. Many of the cases he was connected to were high profile, and some had South Florida ties.

Prior to taking the center stage as a Supreme Court justice nominee, Kavanaugh was a federal appeals court judge. Before that, he was an attorney.

“He’s absolutely a brilliant, legal mind and one of the best legal writers in America today,” said former U.S. attorney Kendall Coffey.

Coffey said he knows Kavanaugh and the way he works.

“One way or another, he’s gonna have a huge impact on the United States Supreme Court,” Coffey said.

Coffey worked alongside Kavanaugh in the later stages of the Elian Gonzalez saga nearly 20 years ago.

After the young boy’s mother drowned trying to get him to the United States, an international battle erupted over whether he could stay with relatives in the U.S. or go back to his father in Cuba.

Kavanaugh tried to keep Gonzalez in South Florida and challenged how much power the courts give to federal agencies.

“In the final analysis, Elian was sent back to Cuba because the federal courts decided Immigration and Naturalization Services should have the final say,” Coffey said.

It was a fight South Florida representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was a part of.

Although she never met Kavanaugh, the two worked parallel paths to keep Gonzalez stateside.

“Kavanaugh represented Elian’s family in Miami, and I got to know all of those family members,” Ros-Lehtinen said, “and it says a lot about him, that he had the best interest of Elian at heart.”

Even though Kavanaugh lost that case, he won another in 2000. He represented then Texas Gov. George Bush in the Supreme Court over a Florida vote recount in the presidential election.

“He was on the other side of the recount litigation, and he and his team did a brilliant job there, too,” Coffey said, “and of course, George W. Bush became president.”

According to Ros-Lehtinen, because of Kavanaugh’s work, “they decided who was going to be the president of the United States.”

Kavanaugh also had a Florida tie to the case of Terri Schiavo, where the right-to-die controversy gripped the nation.

Schiavo’s husband claimed she would not want to be saved after she suffered from cardiac arrest and then severe brain damage, leaving her comatose for years.

Her family pushed to save her.

In 2005, Congress passed legislation to keep Schiavo alive, and Kavanaugh was reportedly the one who woke then President George W. Bush to sign the bill.

In the end, courts ruled in favor of Schiavo’s husband. She passed away in March of that year.

Even with those South Florida connections, Kavanaugh has been considered a Washington insider.

The White House wants him to be confirmed by Oct. 1.

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