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Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, a Republican running for attorney general, is trying to push back against criticisms that he's a politician first and lawyer second by highlighting his success in the courtroom.
At a July 31, 2010, debate with GOP rivals Holly Benson and Pam Bondi, Kottkamp said that he'd put his legal experience up against anyone running.
Then he offered his proof. "I've taken on the federal government," Kottkamp said. "And won."
We wanted to see if Kottkamp is accurately describing his legal career.
According to the Florida Constitution, the state attorney general must have been a member of the bar of Florida for the preceding five years. That's a standard Kottkamp must, and does, meet.
Kottkamp attended the University of Florida College of Law and received his Juris Doctor degree in 1987. He clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Joe Eaton and U.S. District Court Judge Sidney Aronovitz. From 1991-2005, he was a shareholder in the Fort Myers firm of Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, and before becoming lieutenant governor, he spent a brief time as a partner at Morgan & Morgan. Kottkamp remains a member in good standing with the Florida Bar.
Kottkamp's campaign pointed us to case from the 1990s to back up his claim.
What follows is an account cobbled together from court documents of the case, Robert B. Reich vs. John C. Davis, P.A.
In that case Kottkamp represented John C. Davis, a Fort Myers Beach accountant who was sued by the U.S. Department of Labor for firing two employees. Darlene Smiley and Cynthia Fellows claimed that they were terminated for speaking up about not getting paid overtime.
Davis paid overtime during tax season -- roughly January to April -- but offered only compensation time the rest of the year, Smiley and Fellows said. When Smiley asked Davis to pay her the money she was entitled in the fall of 1986, Davis refused.
So Smiley complained to the Department of Labor.
Investigators interviewed both Smiley and Fellows and determined Davis needed to pay. He did, and then promptly fired both Smiley and Fellows.
In court, the Labor Department claimed that Davis violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and argued that the two women should be offered their jobs back.
Davis, through his attorney Kottkamp, said that while the overtime controversy was one of the reasons Smiley and Fellows were fired, they would have been fired anyway, because of poor work habits and poor work product.
In a 1993 ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida sided with Davis, saying that Smiley and Fellows were not fired because they complained about the overtime. The district court's ruling actually was vacated on appeal in 1995 because the appellate court determined that the complaints were a reason the women were fired. But the appellate court said that as long the complaints were not the only reason, Davis acted lawfully.
The case returned to district court and quickly was dismissed, giving Kottkamp the victory he claims over the feds.
Kottkamp said during a televised debate that he has taken on the federal government as a lawyer and won.
In the 1990s, Kottkamp represented an accountant who was sued by the U.S. Department of Labor for allegedly violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. Kottkamp successfully argued that the man fired two employees legally.
For that, we rate his claim True.
Bay News 9/CFN 13, attorney general debate, July 31, 2010
Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp official biography
Jeff Kottkamp campaign, e-mail interview with David Bishop, Aug. 6, 2010
Florida Bar, member search, accessed Aug. 11, 2010
Lexis-Nexis courts, Robert B. Reich vs. John C. Davis, accessed Aug. 11, 2010
PACER, U.S. District Court docket 94-02075, accessed Aug. 11, 2010
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