Martha Coakley

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Martha Coakley
43rd Attorney General of Massachusetts
In office
January 17, 2007 – January 21, 2015
GovernorDeval Patrick
Charlie Baker
Preceded byThomas Reilly
Succeeded byMaura Healey
District Attorney of Middlesex County
In office
January 3, 1999 – January 17, 2007
Preceded byThomas Reilly
Succeeded byGerard Leone
Personal details
Martha Mary Coakley

(1953-07-14) July 14, 1953 (age 70)
Pittsfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseThomas F. O'Connor Jr.[1]
EducationWilliams College (BA)
Boston University (JD)[1]

Martha Mary Coakley[2] (born July 14, 1953) is an American lobbyist, lawyer, and former politician who served as Attorney General of Massachusetts from 2007 to 2015. Prior to serving as Attorney General, she was District Attorney of Middlesex County from 1999 to 2007.

Coakley was the Democratic nominee in the 2010 special election to fill the United States Senate seat long held by Ted Kennedy (and held in the interim by Paul G. Kirk). Coakley was defeated 52% to 47% by Republican Scott Brown in what was widely considered an upset. She won reelection as Attorney General in the 2010 general election. Coakley was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2014 but lost to Republican Charlie Baker. Coakley was a lobbyist for the e-cigarette company Juul until June 2022.[3]

Early life[edit]

Coakley was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to Edward J. and Phyllis E. Coakley. Her father was a World War II veteran, Korean War veteran, and small business owner. Her mother was a homemaker.[2] When Coakley was one year old, she and her parents moved to North Adams. There, she attended St. Joseph's School and Drury High School, graduating in June 1971.[2]

Early career[edit]

Coakley graduated cum laude with a B.A. 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.[2] 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.[4][5]

Assistant District Attorney[edit]

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 and Gerry Leone 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.[6]

Run for State Representative[edit]

In 1997, a special election was held for Boston's 16th Suffolk district to replace James T. Brett, who was resigning. Five candidates, who all lived in the same Ward 16 neighborhood, including a "thoughtful, but unknown assistant DA named Martha Coakley," entered the race.[7] Coakley lost the race to Marty Walsh, receiving 11.7 percent of the vote.[8]

District Attorney[edit]

In December 1997, Coakley resigned her position in order to campaign for District Attorney in Middlesex County.

In 2001, Coakley successfully lobbied Acting Governor Jane Swift to deny clemency to Gerald Amirault, a defendant in the Fells Acres day care sexual abuse trial, whom many regarded as a victim of day care sex abuse hysteria. Clemency for Amirault had been recommended unanimously by the Massachusetts Parole Board.[9] Amirault's co-accused mother and sister had already been released from custody.[10] Wall Street Journal editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz cites Coakley's pursuit of the case despite lack of corroborating evidence as an example of questionable judgment on Coakley's part.[10]

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 indicted Winfield.[11] She requested for him to be released without cash bail. The District Attorney succeeding Coakley subsequently secured a conviction. Winfield was given two life sentences for the crime. Coakley later defended her actions by saying she acted appropriately with the evidence that was available at the time.[12] As of 2012, film producer Steve Audette was making a documentary about Winfield's prosecution, conviction, and continued assertion of innocence;[13] Audette was denied access to recordings of the trial in March 2013.[14]

Attorney General[edit]

Coakley speaking at Faneuil Hall in 2007

Coakley was elected Massachusetts Attorney General in the 2006 general election as a Democrat, defeating Republican Larry Frisoli with 73 percent of the vote. She was sworn in on January 17, 2007. Coakley became 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.[15] 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."[16]

Both of those accused of putting up the signs which caused the bomb scare were given plea bargains, received community service and apologized publicly.[17]

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 (11 m) buffer around entrances and driveways of reproductive health care facilities that offer abortion services.[18][19] The law was signed into effect by Governor Deval Patrick on November 13, 2007, and was subsequently challenged by opponents and overturned by a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court as a violation of the First Amendment.[20][21]

The next month, she signed a Guide to Consumer Credit and activated a Consumer Complaint and Information Hotline for helping people in financial difficulties.[22]

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 would comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the Massachusetts Equal Rights Act.[23]

In November 2008, Coakley unsuccessfully argued the case of Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts before the United States Supreme Court.[24]

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,[25] 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.[26]

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.[27] Through eight lawsuits attached to the incident, Coakley's office recovered $610.625 million on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.[28]

Coakley declined to conduct a criminal investigation of an aide to Thomas M. Menino, Mayor of Boston, for allegedly violating laws regarding the destruction of public e-mail records, describing the request as politically motivated.[29]

On July 8, 2009, Coakley filed a suit[30] 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."[31] Massachusetts is the first state to challenge the legislation.[32]

In 2009, Coakley won settlements of $60 million from Goldman Sachs[33] and $10 million from Fremont Investment & Loan[34] for their abuse of subprime loans and lending.[35]

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.[36]

During Coakley's tenure as Attorney General, misconduct at Massachusetts' crime laboratories led to the reexamination of tens of thousands of drug convictions. Chemist Annie Dookhan was accused of forging reports and tampering with samples to produce desired results.[37] Similarly, Sonja Farak was accused of tampering with the evidence she was tasked with analyzing by using it to get high herself.[38] The actions of both women, who acted independently, resulted in tens of thousands of drug counts being dismissed, the largest single mass dismissal of criminal cases in U.S. history.[39][40] How to Fix a Drug Scandal is an American true crime documentary miniseries that was released on Netflix on April 1, 2020, that was created by Erin Lee Carr, who followed the aftereffects of this notorious case.[41] How to Fix a Drug Scandal depicts the role of Martha Coakley, who was accused of political cover up.[42]

Political campaigns[edit]

1997 Massachusetts state representative campaign[edit]

Martha Coakley finished fourth with 12% of the primary vote in her first run for office against future Boston Mayor and US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh (33%), neighborhood activist Charles Tevnan (16%) and Edward Regal (10%).

1998 District Attorney campaign[edit]

Martha Coakley won the Democratic primary (48%) against Michael A. Sullivan (28%) and Timothy Flaherty (25%) and coasted to a 71–29% general election win against Republican Lee Johnson.

2002 District Attorney campaign[edit]

Martha Coakley was unopposed in both the primary and the general election.

2006 Attorney General campaign[edit]

Martha Coakley was unopposed in the Democratic primary. She won the General election (73%-27%) against Republican Larry Frisoli.[43]

2010 U.S. Senate campaign[edit]

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.[44] Two days later, on September 3, Coakley officially announced her candidacy on her website.[45] She won the Democratic primary on December 8, 2009.[46] 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.[47] 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.[48][49][50][51]

Martha Coakley speaks at roundtable for gubernatorial candidates hosted by the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service, February 11, 2014. Alasdair Roberts, Rappaport Professor of Law and Public Policy, hosted the roundtable.

Coakley committed a number of gaffes during the campaign. When criticized for leaving the state for a Washington fundraiser instead of campaigning, Coakley responded by saying "As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?"[52] Barack Obama, in reflecting on his presidency, cited this comment as an instigating factor for Coakley's election loss, as well as a hurdle for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.[53] Coakley also referred to Red Sox star pitcher and Brown supporter Curt Schilling as "another Yankee fan," making her a target of derision.[54][55]

Coakley admitted to making a mistake while filing the financial disclosure forms for her Senate run, claiming to have no personal assets when she had an account under her husband's name with over $200,000 and a personal IRA containing approximately $12,000.[56]

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 Joseph L. Kennedy received 22,237 votes.[57]

2010 Attorney General campaign[edit]

Coakley successfully ran for reelection, defeating her main challenger, Republican nominee Jim McKenna.[58][59]

2014 Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign[edit]

On September 15, 2013, WCVB-TV learned of Coakley's intention to run for the Massachusetts governorship when incumbent Democrat Deval Patrick retired in 2014. Coakley was set to formally announce her entry into the race the following Monday. She won the Democratic nomination on September 9, 2014.[60] On November 4, 2014, she was narrowly defeated in the general election for governor by Republican Charlie Baker,[61] who was endorsed by the Boston Globe despite the Globe's having endorsed Coakley four years prior in her Senate campaign.[62]

After the election, the Globe wrote that Coakley had been "redeemed, even in defeat," saying that she had been "haunted" by her failed bid for the U.S. Senate four years earlier and had been a "relentless, and frequently terrific, campaigner. Coakley worked her heart out meeting voters across the state. She arrived at the rationale for her candidacy that eluded her four years ago: She had proven she cares about the state's most vulnerable citizens." The Globe added that "this person of remarkable accomplishments, grace, and resilience looks to be leaving public life. That's a big loss."[63]

Post-political career[edit]

From 2015 through early 2019, Coakley worked for Foley Hoag, a Boston-based law firm, as a lawyer and lobbyist.[64] While at the firm, Coakley represented the fantasy sports website DraftKings and student-loan firm Navient when state governments were examining the practices of these industries.[65]

In April 2019, it was announced that Coakley had taken a full-time role with electronic cigarette maker Juul on their government affairs team.[64] As a former attorney general, lobbying attorneys general for the vaping industry has called into question the ethics of Coakley's work for Juul, a leader in the electronic cigarette industry accused of marketing addictive nicotine products to youths.[66][67]

Personal life[edit]

Coakley resides in Medford, Massachusetts. She is married to retired police Deputy Superintendent Thomas F. O'Connor Jr.[68]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Friedlaender, Lucas; O'Brien, Chris (eds.). The Massachusetts Political Almanac 2014. Craig R. Sandler. p. 330. ISBN 0-926766-41-4.
  2. ^ a b c d "Martha Coakley's 1979 bar application" (PDF). The Boston Globe. Retrieved December 12, 2009.
  3. ^ "Former AG Martha Coakley heads back to Foley Hoag after stint at Juul Labs - the Boston Globe". The Boston Globe.
  4. ^ "Martha Coakley". National Association of Attorneys General. Archived from the original on October 16, 2014. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  5. ^ "About Martha Coakley". Mass.Gov. Archived from the original on January 19, 2015.
  6. ^ "In High-Profile Prosecutions, Martha Coakley Made Her Name", Accessed October 6, 2009 [1]
  7. ^ "Editorial: The Marty Walsh we know".
  8. ^ "PD43+ » 1997 State Representative Special Democratic Primary 13th Suffolk District". PD43+.
  9. ^ "Justice, Not So Swift". Retrieved December 11, 2009.
  10. ^ a b Rabinowitz, Dorothy (January 14, 2010). "Dorothy Rabinowitz: Martha Coakley's Convictions". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 21, 2010.
  11. ^ "WINFIELD, COMMONWEALTH vs., 76 Mass. App. Ct. 716".
  12. ^ Rezendes, Michael (January 6, 2010). "Some Saw Coakley as lax on '05 rape case". The Boston Globe. The Boston Globe
  13. ^ "464 Mass. 672 (2013) COMMONWEALTH v. KEITH WINFIELD". Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Middlesex. March 18, 2013 – via Google Scholar. The issue presented in this case is whether a judge erred in denying a documentary film maker's motion for access to an audiotape "room recording" of a trial made by a court reporter where an official transcript of the trial had been prepared and provided to the film maker.
  14. ^ "Filmmaker cannot obtain trial recording, Mass. high court rules". Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. March 20, 2013. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  15. ^ Andrew Kantor (February 16, 2007). "Silly fear of technology must be overcome". USA Today. Retrieved September 13, 2009.
  16. ^ "Two held after ad campaign triggers Boston bomb scare". CNN. February 1, 2007. Retrieved December 12, 2009.
  17. ^ "Pair Charged In Marketing Stunt Reach Plea Deal". CBS Broadcasting. Associated Press. May 11, 2007. Archived from the original on August 10, 2011. Retrieved December 19, 2007.
  18. ^ Martha Coakley. "Office of the Attorney General – - Press Release". Retrieved January 21, 2010.
  19. ^ Estes, Andrea. (May 17, 2007). "A move to expand buffers at clinics" The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 23, 2009.
  20. ^ Wangsness, Lisa. (November 14, 2007). "New law expands abortion buffer zone" The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 23, 2009.
  21. ^ Sampson, Zachary and Peter Schworm. (June 26, 2014). "Mass. abortion clinic buffer zones ruled illegal" The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
  22. ^ Martha Coalkley (June 2007). The Attorney General's Guide to Consumer Credit (pdf). Boston, MA: Commonwealth of Massachusetts - Office of Attorney General - Consumer Protection Division. p. 3. OCLC 960945672. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 13, 2019. Retrieved November 13, 2019 – via
  23. ^ Bray, Hiawatha (September 27, 2008). "Coakley, Apple agree on iTunes access for blind" The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  24. ^ "ScotusBlog, Argument analysis: As Kennedy goes…, by Lyle Denniston". November 10, 2008. Archived from the original on January 19, 2010. Retrieved January 21, 2010.
  25. ^ Martha Coakley (April 2, 2007). "letter to EPA". Retrieved December 12, 2009.
  26. ^ McConville, Christine (February 5, 2009). "AG urges EPA to regulate greenhouse gases" The Boston Herald. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  27. ^ Martha Coakley. "Big Dig press release". Retrieved December 12, 2009.
  28. ^ Globe Staff (March 26, 2009). "With two final settlements, Big Dig tunnel litigation ends" The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  29. ^ "Martha Coakley Cyber-steps Menino Controversy". Boston Herald. Archived from the original on September 22, 2009.
  30. ^ Martha Coakley (July 7, 2009). "Commonwealth v. United States Department of Health and Human Services" (PDF). Retrieved December 12, 2009.
  31. ^ Finucane, Martin (July 8, 2009). "Mass. challenges federal Defense of Marriage Act". Boston Globe. Retrieved July 8, 2009.
  32. ^ ABBY GOODNOUGH & (July 8, 2009). "State Suit Challenges U.S. Defense of Marriage Act". New York Times. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  33. ^ McKim, Jenifer B. (May 11, 2009). "State reaches $60m subprime deal with Goldman Sachs" The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 23, 2009.
  34. ^ Boston Globe Business Team. (June 9, 2009). Coakley reaches settlement in subprime case" The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 23, 2009.
  35. ^ Martha Coakley (May 11, 2009). "Goldman Sachs Settlement press release". Retrieved December 12, 2009.
  36. ^ Schworm, Peter (October 28, 2010). "US judge blocks Mass. Internet obscenity law".
  37. ^ Lavoie, Denise (March 4, 2014). "Inspector General: Dookhan 'Sole Bad Actor' In State Drug Lab Scandal". CBS Boston.
  38. ^ McDonald, Danny (September 25, 2019). "24,000 charges tossed because they were tainted by former Amherst lab chemist's misconduct". The Boston Globe.
  39. ^ Trahan, Erin (April 9, 2020). "Netflix's 'How To Fix A Drug Scandal' Elevates Process Over Personality". WBUR.
  40. ^ Solotaroff, Paul (January 3, 2018). "And Justice for None: Inside Biggest Law Enforcement Scandal in Massachusetts History". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  41. ^ Horton, Adrian (April 1, 2020). "How to Fix a Drug Scandal: behind a staggering Netflix crime docuseries". The Guardian.
  42. ^ Wilkinson, Alissa (April 1, 2020). "How to Fix a Drug Scandal is the staggering true story of justice gone very wrong". Vox.
  43. ^ "PD43+ » Search Elections".
  44. ^ "Martha Coakley To Seek Kennedy's Senate Seat (AP)". Huffington Post. September 1, 2009.
  45. ^ "Martha Coakley Announces Her Candidacy for US Senate". Archived from the original on July 14, 2011.
  46. ^ "AG Coakley wins Democratic race for Kennedy seat".
  47. ^ "Coakley for Senate (editorial)", The Boston Globe, January 14, 2010
  48. ^ US Senate Debate UMass Boston January 11, 2010 on YouTube, 37:55–38:41 University of Massachusetts Boston's channel.
  49. ^ Ebbert, Stephanie & Viser, Matt (January 15, 2010), "Brown, Coakley accentuate stances on terrorism, economy", Boston Globe
  50. ^ Weigel, David (January 17, 2010), "MA-Sen: Republicans Celebrate Coakley's Gaffes in Worcester", The Washington Independent, archived from the original on January 21, 2010
  51. ^ Chabot, Hillary & Crimaldi, Laura (January 15, 2010), "Rudy Giuliani joins Scott Brown, slams Martha Coakley on terrorism", Boston Herald, archived from the original on January 18, 2010
  52. ^ Filipov, David (January 13, 2010). "Campaign's brevity shapes Coakley image on trail – The Boston Globe". Boston Globe. Retrieved March 15, 2010.
  53. ^ Chait, Jonathan (October 2, 2016). "Five Days That Shaped a Presidency". New York Magazine. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  54. ^ Ortiz, Maria Burns, "Schilling takes one to the head again", ESPN
  55. ^ "Coakley Risks Offending Red Sox Nation, Calls Schilling 'Another Yankee Fan'", Fox News, January 16, 2010
  56. ^ "'Honest mistakes': Martha Coakley failed to disclose all assets", Boston Herald, retrieved January 16, 2010
  57. ^ "2010 Massachusetts US Senate Special Election Results – – Politics". Boston Globe. December 8, 2009. Retrieved March 15, 2010.
  58. ^ Estes, Andrea (January 21, 2010). "Aides say Coakley will seek reelection as attorney general." The Boston Globe. Retrieved February 19, 2010.
  59. ^ Phillips, Frank (September 16, 2010). "Martha Coakley to face opponent in race for AG" The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 17, 2010.
  60. ^ "For governor, it's Coakley vs. Baker". Boston Globe. September 10, 2014.
  61. ^ "Charlie Baker victorious as Martha Coakley concedes in governor's race". Boston Globe. November 5, 2014.
  62. ^ "Charlie Baker for governor". Boston Globe. October 26, 2014.
  63. ^ "Martha Coakley is redeemed, even in defeat". Boston Globe. November 6, 2014.
  64. ^ a b Levenson, Michael; Stout, Matt (April 2, 2019). "Former Mass. AG Martha Coakley joins e-cigarette company JUUL". The Boston Globe. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  65. ^ Zibel, Alan (April 11, 2019). "Vape and Switch: How Martha Coakley Joined Up with Juul". The American Prospect. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  66. ^ Lucas, Peter (April 10, 2019). "Democrats Smoking Hot Over Martha Coakley's Juul Move". Boston Herald. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  67. ^ Editorial (March 11, 2020). "Former AG Martha Coakley's Juul Defense Another Gem of a Decision". The Lowell Sun. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  68. ^ About Attorney General Martha Coakley Mass.Gov. The Official Website of the Attorney General of Massachusetts. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 2014. Retrieved November 28, 2014

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by District Attorney of Middlesex County
Succeeded by
Attorney General of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
(Class 1)

Succeeded by
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by