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Martha Mary Coakley

Assumed office 
January 17, 2007
Preceded by Thomas Reilly

In office
Preceded by Thomas Reilly
Succeeded by Gerald Leone

Born July 14, 1953 (1953-07-14) (age 56)
Pittsfield, Massachusetts[1]
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Thomas F O'Connor Jr.
Residence Medford, Massachusetts
Profession Lawyer
Religion Catholic

Martha Mary Coakley[1] (born July 14, 1953) is the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; (archaic: "The Great Defender of the Constitution 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 candidate in the special election‎ to fill the seat in the United States Senate held by interim Senator Paul G. Kirk, who was appointed upon the death of Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy.[2] 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 a stunning upset in Democratic-dominated Massachusetts. She plans on seeking re-election as Attorney General in the fall of 2010.[3]


Personal life

Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts to Edward J. and Phillys E. Coakley (née Laffey),[1] Coakley moved at age one with her parents to North Adams. There, she attended St. Joseph's School and Drury High School, graduating in June 1971.[1] Coakley currently resides in Medford. She is married to Thomas F. O'Connor, Jr.

Early career

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.[1] 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.[4]

District Attorney

In December 1997, Coakley resigned her position, in order to campaign for District Attorney in the 54 cities and towns of Middlesex County. During her term as District Attorney, Coakley was recognized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Massachusetts School of Law and the Frank J. Murray Inn of Court.[citation needed]

In November 2000, the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts honored Coakley with its Leila J. Robinson Award for her contributions to the field of law. In June 2002—the year she was President of the Massachusetts District Attorney's Association—the YWCA Boston selected her as a member of its Academy of Women Achievers Class of 2002.[citation needed]

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 him had been recommended unanimously by the Massachusetts Parole Board,[5][6] and his co-accused mother and sister had already been released from custody.[7] Wall Street Journal reporter Dorothy Rabinowitz cites her pursuit of the case despite lack of corroborating evidence as an example of questionable judgment on Coakley's part.[7]

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 indict Keith Winfield, a Somerville police officer. Later, after a criminal complaint was filed by the parents of the victim, she requested that he be released without cash bail. The DA succeeding Coakley subsequently secured a conviction awarding 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. [8]

Attorney General

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.[9] 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." [10]

Both were given plea bargains, received community service and apologized publicly.[11]

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.[12][13] The law was signed into effect by Governor Deval Patrick on November 13, 2007 and challenged by opponents.[14]

After the law was struck down by a federal court judge, Coakley successfully defended the law before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on July 8, 2008.[citation needed]

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.[15]

In November 2008, Coakley unsuccessfully argued the case of Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts before the United States Supreme Court.[16]

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,[17] 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.[18]

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.[19] Through eight lawsuits attached to the incident, Coakley's office recovered $610.625 million on behalf of the Commomwealth of Massachusetts.[20]

Coakley has refused to investigate Thomas M. Menino, Mayor of Boston, and his office for allegedly violating laws in regards to destruction of public e-mail records. Coakley denies all accusations of misconduct.[21]

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 designated ballot committee in a timely manner while receiving contributions as required by law while challenging the initiative.[22]

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.[23]

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. [22]

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.[24]

On July 8, 2009, Coakley filed a suit,[25] 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."[26] Massachusetts is the first state to challenge the legislation.

In 2009, Coakley won settlements of $60 million from Goldman Sachs [27] and $10 million from Fremont Investment & Loan [28] for their abuse of subprime loans and lending.[29]

United States 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.[30] Two days later, on September 3, Coakley officially announced her candidacy on her website.[31] She won the Democratic primary on December 8, 2009.[32] 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.[33]

In her last television debate January 11, 2010 at the University of Massachusetts, 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 Rudy Giuliani and Scott Brown while Coakley supporters have stated that her comment was based on recent opinions by military leadership including Jim Jones, David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal.[34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42]

Coakley commited 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?"[43] Coakley also referred to Red Sox star pitcher and Brown supporter Curt Schilling as "another Yankee fan," making her a butt of late-night comedian jokes, including Jon Stewart. [44][45][46]

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.[47]

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. [48]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Martha Coakley's 1979 bar application" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-12-12. 
  2. ^ "WHDH-TV - Coakley announces candidacy for Kennedy seat". Retrieved 2009-12-12. 
  3. ^ Estes, Andrea (January 21, 2010). "AG urges EPA to regulate greenhouse gases" The Boston Globe.'.' Retrieved February 19, 2010.
  4. ^ "In High-Profile Prosecutions, Martha Coakley Made Her Name", Accessed October 6th, 2009 [1]
  5. ^ "Martha Coakley: Too immoral for Teddy Kennedy's seat". Retrieved 2009-12-11. 
  6. ^ "Justice, Not So Swift". Retrieved 2009-12-11. 
  7. ^ a b Rabinowitz, Dorothy (2010-01-14). "Dorothy Rabinowitz: Martha Coakley's Convictions -". Retrieved 2010-01-21. 
  8. ^ Rezendes, Michael (01/06/2010). "Some Saw Coakley as lax on '05 rape case".  The Boston Globe
  9. ^ Andrew Kantor (2007-02-16). "Silly fear of technology must be overcome". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-09-13. 
  10. ^ "Two held after ad campaign triggers Boston bomb scare". 2007-02-01. Retrieved 2009-12-12. 
  11. ^ "Pair Charged In Marketing Stunt Reach Plea Deal". Associated Press (CBS Broadcasting). 2007-05-11. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  12. ^ Martha Coakley. "Office of the Attorney General - - Press Release". Retrieved 2010-01-21. 
  13. ^ Estes, Andrea. (May 17, 2007). "A move to expand buffers at clinics" The Boston Globe.'.' Retrieved September 23, 2009.
  14. ^ Wangsness, Lisa. (November 14, 2007). "New law expands abortion buffer zone" The Boston Globe.'.' Retrieved September 23, 2009.
  15. ^ Bray, Hiawatha (September 27, 2008). "Coakley, Apple agree on iTunes access for blind" The Boston Globe.'.' Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  16. ^ "ScotusBlog, ''Argument analysis: As Kennedy goes…'', by Lyle Denniston". 2008-11-10. Retrieved 2010-01-21. 
  17. ^ Martha Coakley (2007-04-02). "letter to EPA". Retrieved 2009-12-12. 
  18. ^ McConville, Christine (February 5, 2009). "AG urges EPA to regulate greenhouse gases" The Boston Herald.'.' Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  19. ^ Martha Coakley. "Big Dig press release". Retrieved 2009-12-12. 
  20. ^ Globe Staff (March 26, 2009). "With two final settlements, Big Dig tunnel litigation ends" The Boston Globe.'.' Retrieved September 25, 2009.
  21. ^ "Martha Coakley Cyber-steps Menino Controversy". Boston Herald. 
  22. ^ a b "Supporters of marijuana ballot question lodge complaint". 2008-09-18. Retrieved 2010-01-21. 
  23. ^ "Coakley rejects marijuana group's case". 2008-10-01. Retrieved 2010-01-21. 
  24. ^ By CHRIS FARAONE   (2008-09-25). "Blunt object - The Boston Phoenix". Retrieved 2010-01-21. 
  25. ^ Martha Coakley (2009-07-07). "''Commonwealth v. United States Department of Health and Human Services''". Retrieved 2009-12-12. 
  26. ^ Finucane, Martin (2009-07-08). "Mass. challenges federal Defense of Marriage Act". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  27. ^ McKim, Jenifer B. (May 11, 2009). "State reaches $60m subprime deal with Goldman Sachs" The Boston Globe.'.' Retrieved September 23, 2009.
  28. ^ Boston Globe Business Team. (June 9, 2009). Coakley reaches settlement in subprime case" The Boston Globe.'.' Retrieved September 23, 2009.
  29. ^ Martha Coakley (2009-05-11). "Goldman Sachs Settlement press release". Retrieved 2009-12-12. 
  30. ^ "Martha Coakley To Seek Kennedy's Senate Seat (AP)". Huffington Post. 
  31. ^ "Martha Coakley Announces Her Candidacy for US Senate". 
  32. ^ "AG Coakley wins Democratic race for Kennedy seat". 
  33. ^ "Coakley for Senate (editorial)", The Boston Globe, January 14, 2010, 
  34. ^ US Senate Debate UMass Boston January 11, 2010 at YouTube, 37:55-38:41 University of Massachusetts Boston's channel.
  35. ^ interview with General David Petraeus, CNN,
  36. ^ McChrystal: No major al-Qaida signs in Afghanistan Seattle Times, September 11, 2009
  37. ^ interview with General Jim Jones CNN,October 4, 2009
  38. ^ interview with Senior U.S. military intelligence official, Washington Post, November 11, 2009
  39. ^ interview with senior Obama administration official New York Times, October 7, 2009
  40. ^ Ebbert, Stephanie & Viser, Matt (January 15, 2010), "Brown, Coakley accentuate stances on terrorism, economy", Boston Globe, 
  41. ^ Weigel, David (January 17, 2010), "MA-Sen: Republicans Celebrate Coakley’s Gaffes in Worcester", The Washington Independent, 
  42. ^ Chabot, Hillary & Crimaldi, Laura (January 15, 2010), "Rudy Giuliani joins Scott Brown, slams Martha Coakley on terrorism", Boston Herald, 
  43. ^ "Campaign’s brevity shapes Coakley image on trail - The Boston Globe". 2010-01-13. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  44. ^ "Video: Mass Backwards | The Daily Show | Comedy Central". The Daily Show. 2010-01-18. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  45. ^ Ortiz, Maria Burns, "Schilling takes one to the head again", ESPN, 
  46. ^ "Coakley Risks Offending Red Sox Nation, Calls Schilling 'Another Yankee Fan'", Fox News, January 16, 2010, 
  47. ^ "‘Honest mistakes’: Martha Coakley failed to disclose all assets", Boston Herald,, retrieved January 16, 2010 
  48. ^ "2010 Massachusetts US Senate Special Election Results - - Politics". Retrieved 2010-03-15. 

Further Reading

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Thomas Reilly
District Attorney of Middlesex County, Massachusetts
1999 – 2007
Succeeded by
Gerard T. Leone, Jr.
Preceded by
Thomas Reilly
Attorney General of Massachusetts
January 17, 2007–present
Lines of succession
Preceded by
William F. Galvin
Secretary of the Commonwealth
Governor of Massachusetts
3rd in line

Attorney General
Succeeded by
Tim Cahill
Treasurer and Receiver-General
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ted Kennedy
Democratic Party nominee for United States Senator from Massachusetts
(Class 1)

Succeeded by


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