|58th Attorney General of Massachusetts|
January 17, 2007
|Preceded by||Thomas Reilly|
|District Attorney of Middlesex County|
January 3, 1999 – January 17, 2007
|Preceded by||Thomas Reilly|
|Succeeded by||Gerard Leone|
|Born||Martha Mary Coakley
July 14, 1953
Pittsfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Alma mater||Williams College
Martha Mary Coakley (born July 14, 1953) is the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Prior to serving as Attorney General, she was District Attorney of Middlesex County, Massachusetts from 1999 to 2007.
Coakley was the Democratic nominee in the special election to fill the seat in the United States Senate held by Senator Paul G. Kirk, who was appointed upon the death of Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy. The special election decided who would fill the remaining three years of Kennedy's term. Coakley was defeated by Republican Scott Brown 52% to 47%, widely considered an upset. She won reelection as the Attorney General in the 2010 general election.
Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts to Edward J. and Phyllis E. Coakley, Coakley moved at the age of one with her parents to North Adams. There, she attended St. Joseph's School and Drury High School, graduating in June 1971. Coakley currently resides in Medford. She is married to Thomas F. O'Connor, Jr.
Coakley received a B.A., cum laude, from Williams College in 1975 and a J.D. from Boston University School of Law in 1979. In the summer of 1978, while a law student, Coakley clerked for the law firm of Donovan and O'Connor of Adams, Massachusetts. After graduating from law school Coakley began work as an associate at the law firm of Parker, Coulter, Daley & White, and later practiced at Goodwin Procter – both in Boston, Massachusetts.
Assistant District Attorney
She joined the DA's office in 1986 as an Assistant District Attorney in the Lowell, Massachusetts District Court office. A year later, she was invited by the U.S. Justice Department to join its Boston Organized Crime Strike Force as a Special Attorney. Coakley returned to the District Attorney’s Office in 1989 and was appointed the Chief of the Child Abuse Prosecution Unit two years later.
In 1997, while serving under Middlesex County, Massachusetts District Attorney Tom Reilly, she led the courtroom prosecution of then 19-year-old English au pair Louise Woodward who was later convicted in the shaking death of eight-month-old Matthew Eappen of Newton, Massachusetts.
In December 1997, Coakley resigned her position, in order to campaign for District Attorney in the 54 cities and towns of Middlesex County.
In 2001, Coakley successfully lobbied Acting Gov. Jane Swift to deny clemency to Gerald Amirault, a defendant in the Fells Acres Day Care Center preschool trial, whom many regarded as a victim of day care sex abuse hysteria. Prior to this, clemency for Amirault had been recommended unanimously by the Massachusetts Parole Board,. Amirault's co-accused mother and sister had already been released from custody. Wall Street Journal reporter Dorothy Rabinowitz cites Coakley's pursuit of the case despite lack of corroborating evidence as an example of questionable judgment on Coakley's part.
Coakley resisted freeing Kenneth Waters even after DNA proved his innocence of murder, as dramatized in the film Conviction.
Coakley's actions as District Attorney in the sexual abuse case of a 23-month old girl in 2005 have drawn sharp criticism. Coakley, who oversaw the grand jury for the case, did not immediately indict Keith Winfield, a Somerville police officer. On August 1, 2006, after a criminal complaint was threatened to be filed by Larry Frisoli, attorney for the victim's single mother and the Republican candidate running against Coakley for Attorney General, she did indict Winfield. She requested that he be released without cash bail. The DA succeeding Coakley subsequently secured a conviction. Winfield was given two life sentences for the crime. Coakley later defended her actions in this case, saying she acted appropriately given the evidence that was available at the time. Steve Audette, a film producer, is currently making a documentary film about Winfield’s prosecution and conviction. The film will examine the evidence and Winfield’s continued assertion of innocence.
Coakley was elected Massachusetts Attorney General in the 2006 general election as a Democrat, defeating Republican Larry Frisoli with 73% of the vote. She was sworn in on January 17, 2007. Coakley is the first woman to serve as Attorney General in Massachusetts.
During the Aqua Teen Hunger Force bomb scare in January 2007, Coakley was widely quoted in the press defending the reaction of Boston's emergency services. Small electronic signs advertising a cartoon had been mistaken for bombs; Massachusetts authorities halted traffic on two bridges and closed the Charles River before realizing the signs were harmless. Coakley defended the precautions because the LED signs had looked suspicious: "It had a very sinister appearance, it had a battery behind it, and wires."
Both of those accused of putting up the signs which caused the bomb scare were given plea bargains, received community service and apologized publicly.
In May 2007, Coakley testified before the Massachusetts State Legislature in support of the passage of a "buffer zone" law that created a 35-foot buffer around entrances and driveways of reproductive health care facilities that offer abortion services. The law was signed into effect by Governor Deval Patrick on November 13, 2007 and was subsequently challenged by opponents.
In September 2008, Coakley worked with Apple Inc. and the National Federation of the Blind to have Apple redesign the popular iTunes software so it complies with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the Massachusetts Equal Rights Act.
On February 5, 2009, she led an 18-state coalition, as well as the Corporation Counsel for the City of New York and the City Solicitor of Baltimore, urging the Environmental Protection Agency to take action in response to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA. Though the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA did have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, the Agency had yet to make an official decision on whether it believes that greenhouse gas emissions pose dangers to public health or welfare.
Coakley inherited litigation of the fatal 2006 Big Dig ceiling collapse from outgoing Attorney General Tom Reilly in 2007. On March 26, 2009 she settled the final lawsuit pertaining to the incident. Through eight lawsuits attached to the incident, Coakley's office recovered $610.625 million on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Coakley has refused to investigate Thomas M. Menino, Mayor of Boston, and his office for allegedly violating laws regarding the destruction of public e-mail records. Coakley denies all accusations of misconduct.
She also declined to reprimand the state's District Attorneys in relation to false statements they allegedly made regarding the effects of the state's voter-approved Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative in an attempt to defeat the ballot question, as well as allegations the District Attorneys misused state resources (website) and failed to file as a designated ballot committee in a timely manner while receiving contributions as required by law while challenging the initiative.
The statements by the District Attorneys included allegedly inaccurate and misleading warnings in an effort to defeat the law, such as that if the law passed "any person may carry and use marijuana at any time." When declining to pursue the case Coakley's office responded with "nothing in the proposed law explicitly forbids public use of the drug". This basically ignores the fact that the law still levies a $100 fine and confiscation for adults, as well as additional mandatory community service for minors for the act of possession, and in order to use the drug you would need to possess the drug, as well as the fact the law as passed allows cities to pass its own ordinances to further fine public consumption if needed. The failure to file as a ballot committee allegedly stems from the fact state records show the district attorneys began raising money as early as July 18, 2008, but did not file a statement of organization or any of the appropriate financial disclosures with the state until Sept. 5, 2008.
Coakley was herself a member of The Coalition for Safe Streets, the political action group eventually formed by the District Attorneys to fight the ballot question but did not feel it was necessary to recuse herself from any decisions based on any possible conflict of interest grounds.
On July 8, 2009, Coakley filed a suit challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. The suit claims that Congress "overstepped its authority, undermined states' efforts to recognize marriages between same-sex couples, and codified an animus towards gay and lesbian people." Massachusetts is the first state to challenge the legislation.
In 2010, Coakley helped draft a Massachusetts law regulating obscenity on the internet. In a decision celebrated by civil rights advocates, the law was overturned by a federal judge after a coalition of booksellers and website publishers sued, claiming the new law was unconstitutional and would hold criminally liable anyone who operates a website containing nudity or sexual material including subjects such as art or even health information such as pregnancy or birth control. They said the law failed to distinguish between open websites and obscene material. Federal Judge Rya W. Zobel stated that the plaintiffs demonstrated “without question’’ that the law violated the First Amendment by infringing on and inhibiting free speech.
2010 U.S. Senate campaign
On September 1, 2009, Coakley was the first candidate to take out nomination papers to run in a special election to succeed the late Edward M. Kennedy in the United States Senate in the special election in 2010. Two days later, on September 3, Coakley officially announced her candidacy on her website. She won the Democratic primary on December 8, 2009. Her opponents were Republican Scott Brown and Libertarian Joseph L. Kennedy (no relation to the Kennedy family). Coakley was endorsed by The Boston Globe on January 14, 2010. In her last television debate January 11, 2010 at the University of Massachusetts Boston, when asked about the prospects of victory in Afghanistan, Coakley stated, "I think we have done what we are going to be able to do in Afghanistan. I think that we should plan an exit strategy. Yes. I'm not sure there is a way to succeed. If the goal was and the mission in Afghanistan was to go in because we believed that the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists. We supported that. I supported that. They're gone. They're not there anymore. They're in, apparently Yemen, they're in Pakistan. Let's focus our efforts on where Al Qaeda is." This statement drew criticism from Scott Brown and his supporters, including Rudy Giuliani.
Coakley committed a number of gaffes during the campaign. When criticized for leaving the state for a Washington fundraiser instead of campaigning, Coakley responded saying "as opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?" Coakley also referred to Red Sox star pitcher and Brown supporter Curt Schilling as "another Yankee fan," making her a butt of jokes by late-night comedians, including Jon Stewart.
Coakley admitted to making a mistake while filing the financial disclosure forms for her senate run claiming to have no personal assets when in fact she had an account under her husband's name with over $200,000 and a personal IRA containing approximately $12,000.
On January 19, 2010, Coakley was defeated by Brown 52% to 47% in the special election. Brown received 1,168,107 votes, Coakley received 1,058,682 votes, and independent Joseph L. Kennedy received 22,237 votes.
2010 Attorney general campaign
2014 Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign
On September 15, WCVB-TV learned of Coakley's intention to run for the Massachusetts governorship when incumbent Democrat Deval Patrick retires in 2014. Coakley was set to formally announce her entry into the race the following Monday.
- Conviction (2010 film) – this movie includes Martha Coakley's involvement in the conviction of Kenneth Waters, whose conviction was later vacated
- "Martha Coakley's 1979 bar application" (PDF). The Boston Globe. Retrieved December 12, 2009.
- "WHDH-TV – Coakley announces candidacy for Kennedy seat". .whdh.com. Retrieved December 12, 2009.
- Estes, Andrea (January 21, 2010). "Aides say Coakley will seek reelection as attorney general". The Boston Globe. Retrieved February 19, 2010.
- Phillips, Frank (September 16, 2010). "Martha Coakley to face opponent in race for AG" The Boston Globe.'.' Retrieved September 17, 2010.
- "In High-Profile Prosecutions, Martha Coakley Made Her Name", Accessed October 6, 2009 
- "Justice, Not So Swift". Thenation.com. Retrieved December 11, 2009.
- Rabinowitz, Dorothy (January 14, 2010). "Dorothy Rabinowitz: Martha Coakley's Convictions". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 21, 2010.
- Rezendes, Michael (January 6, 2010). "Some Saw Coakley as lax on '05 rape case". The Boston Globe. The Boston Globe
- Andrew Kantor (February 16, 2007). "Silly fear of technology must be overcome". USA Today. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
- "Two held after ad campaign triggers Boston bomb scare". CNN. February 1, 2007. Retrieved December 12, 2009.
- "Pair Charged In Marketing Stunt Reach Plea Deal". WBZTV.com (CBS Broadcasting). Associated Press. May 11, 2007. Retrieved December 19, 2007.[dead link]
- Martha Coakley. "Office of the Attorney General – - Press Release". Mass.gov. Retrieved January 21, 2010.
- Estes, Andrea. (May 17, 2007). "A move to expand buffers at clinics" The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 23, 2009.
- Wangsness, Lisa. (November 14, 2007). "New law expands abortion buffer zone" The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 23, 2009.
- Bray, Hiawatha (September 27, 2008). "Coakley, Apple agree on iTunes access for blind" The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
- "ScotusBlog, ''Argument analysis: As Kennedy goes…'', by Lyle Denniston". Scotusblog.com. November 10, 2008. Retrieved January 21, 2010.[dead link]
- Martha Coakley (April 2, 2007). "letter to EPA". Mass.gov. Retrieved December 12, 2009.
- McConville, Christine (February 5, 2009). "AG urges EPA to regulate greenhouse gases" The Boston Herald. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
- Martha Coakley. "Big Dig press release". Mass.gov. Retrieved December 12, 2009.
- Globe Staff (March 26, 2009). "With two final settlements, Big Dig tunnel litigation ends" The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
- "Martha Coakley Cyber-steps Menino Controversy". Boston Herald.
- LeBlanc, Steve (September 18, 2008). "Supporters of marijuana ballot question lodge complaint". Boston Globe. Retrieved January 21, 2010.
- "Coakley rejects marijuana group's case". Boston Globe. October 1, 2008. Retrieved January 21, 2010.
- CHRIS FARAONE (September 25, 2008). "Blunt object – The Boston Phoenix". Thephoenix.com. Retrieved January 21, 2010.
- Martha Coakley (July 7, 2009). "''Commonwealth v. United States Department of Health and Human Services''". Mass.gov. Retrieved December 12, 2009.
- Finucane, Martin (July 8, 2009). "Mass. challenges federal Defense of Marriage Act". Boston Globe. Retrieved July 8, 2009.
- ABBY GOODNOUGH & (July 8, 2009). "State Suit Challenges U.S. Defense of Marriage Act". New York Times. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
- McKim, Jenifer B. (May 11, 2009). "State reaches $60m subprime deal with Goldman Sachs" The Boston Globe.'.' Retrieved September 23, 2009.
- Boston Globe Business Team. (June 9, 2009). Coakley reaches settlement in subprime case" The Boston Globe.'.' Retrieved September 23, 2009.
- Martha Coakley (May 11, 2009). "Goldman Sachs Settlement press release". Mass.gov. Retrieved December 12, 2009.
- US judge blocks mass obscenity law Judge Rya Zobel blocks Mass. internet obscenity law
- "Martha Coakley To Seek Kennedy's Senate Seat (AP)". Huffington Post. September 1, 2009.
- "Martha Coakley Announces Her Candidacy for US Senate".
- "AG Coakley wins Democratic race for Kennedy seat".
- "Coakley for Senate (editorial)", The Boston Globe, January 14, 2010
- US Senate Debate UMass Boston January 11, 2010 on YouTube, 37:55–38:41 University of Massachusetts Boston's channel.
- Ebbert, Stephanie & Viser, Matt (January 15, 2010), "Brown, Coakley accentuate stances on terrorism, economy", Boston Globe
- Weigel, David (January 17, 2010), "MA-Sen: Republicans Celebrate Coakley’s Gaffes in Worcester", The Washington Independent
- Chabot, Hillary & Crimaldi, Laura (January 15, 2010), "Rudy Giuliani joins Scott Brown, slams Martha Coakley on terrorism", Boston Herald
- Filipov, David (January 13, 2010). "Campaign’s brevity shapes Coakley image on trail – The Boston Globe". Boston Globe. Retrieved March 15, 2010.
- "Video: Mass Backwards | The Daily Show | Comedy Central". The Daily Show. January 18, 2010. Retrieved March 15, 2010.
- Ortiz, Maria Burns, "Schilling takes one to the head again", ESPN
- "Coakley Risks Offending Red Sox Nation, Calls Schilling 'Another Yankee Fan'", Fox News, January 16, 2010
- "‘Honest mistakes’: Martha Coakley failed to disclose all assets", Boston Herald, retrieved January 16, 2010
- "2010 Massachusetts US Senate Special Election Results – Boston.com – Politics". Boston Globe. December 8, 2009. Retrieved March 15, 2010.
- Anatomy of the Election Day Train Wreck: The View from Boston, Bill Lichtenstein, Huffington Post, January 20, 2010.
- Attorney General Martha Coakley official Massachusetts government website
- Martha Coakley official campaign website
- Biography, voting record, and interest group ratings at Project Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Collected news and commentary at the Boston Herald
- Collected news and commentary at MassLive.com
- 2010 US Senate campaign contributions from OpenSecrets.org
- Martha Coakley: Why I'm Running for Senate, Martha Coakley, Christian Science Monitor, January 15, 2010
- Martha Coakley's 1979 bar application
|District Attorney of Middlesex County
|Attorney General of Massachusetts
|Party political offices|
|Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
|Lines of succession|
as Secretary of the Commonwealth
|Governor of Massachusetts
as Attorney General
as Treasurer and Receiver-General