Honoring the Honorable

 

They weren't wearing robes and they weren't atop benches, but the judges commanded the attention of a packed auditorium at Colby on March 19.

By R.J.
 

Along with many more admirers of the Honorable Frank M. Coffin, justices from federal and state courts flocked to campus to watch First Circuit Court of Appeals Senior Judge Coffin become the first Maine native to receive the Morton A. Brody Distinguished Judicial Service Award.

The award, given biennially, recognizes a judge who embodies the qualities that distinguished Brody: integrity, compassion, humanity, and judicial craftsmanship.

The presence of these judges and their remarks about Coffin"along with the remarks of others who did not attend, such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer H'98"revealed in what high esteem Coffin's colleagues hold him. At a Goldfarb Center panel discussion about the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts, Hon. Robert Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit went so far as to say, "If Humphrey and Muskie had won [the White House] in 1968, we would today be celebrating the 'Coffin Court.'"

Loyalty to Coffin is evident in the existence of the "Coffin Clever," a group of his nearly 70 former clerks, many of whom make periodic trips to Maine for reunions with the judge and his wife. They include Jeff Lehman, immediate past president of Cornell University, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, and many academics, judges, and government officials, in addition to practicing lawyers.

Other admirers are former colleagues, such as Breyer, who wrote in a statement, "Judges who have not served on the First Circuit with Frank Coffin envy those who"like me"have had the opportunity to do so. Frank taught us much of value"about law and about character. Through his opinions, his legal writings, his government service, his humanity, he has become a judicial legend"a master craftsman of the law."
 
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