A Man for All Branches - Judge Frank M. Coffin of Maine
A biography of Frank M. Coffin, who was an important figure in Maine politics and served for 41 years as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The author, political scientist Richard J. Maiman, provides a detailed study of Coffin’s political career, drawing extensively on materials dealing with Maine politics, Congress, foreign aid, and the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. He also makes liberal use of the burgeoning literature on federal court processes to help illuminate Coffin's judicial work.
Frank Coffin’s succession of activities preceding his court appointment – partnering with Edmund Muskie to revive Maine’s moribund Democratic party, serving two terms in Congress, running an impressive but unsuccessful campaign for governor, helping design and administer the Kennedy administration’s new foreign aid agency, serving as a diplomat in Paris – all would all be tales worth telling, even if he had not then gone on to even greater achievements as a federal appellate judge. But Coffin did become a judge, and in doing so he also became one of a handful of people to serve in all three branches of the national government.
The second half of the book documents how Judge Coffin, while scrupulously avoiding partisan politics, continued to apply the knowledge, skills, and perspectives that had served him well in politics and government. During Coffin’s 11 years as chief circuit judge, his abilities as a small group leader contributed to his court’s high levels of both productivity and collegiality.
This biography includes extensive reference to the judge’s personal journals. Intermittently before his judicial career, and then continuously throughout it, Frank Coffin kept daily journals in which he reported and reflected on virtually every aspect of his personal and professional life. More than simply records of events, the Coffin journals are repositories of candid observations about himself, his work, his colleagues, his family and friends, and the larger world. The journals not only offer a wealth of detail and countless insights into the judge’s character, they also make it possible for his distinctive voice to be heard throughout the book.
Published June 2022.
Softcover publication: ISBN: 9781737776765
Hard cover publication: ISBN: 9781737776772
Richard Maiman earned a PhD at Brown University and taught for 40 years in the political science department at the University of Southern Maine, specializing in law and politics. He also taught in USM’s American and New England Studies graduate program, the Muskie School of Public Service, and at the University of Maine School of Law.
In the 1980s he and Craig McEwen of Bowdoin College published a series of groundbreaking articles on mediation as an alternative to adjudication. One of his books, Divorce Lawyers at Work: Varieties of Professionalism in Practice, co-authored with McEwen and Lynn Mather of Dartmouth College, was cited by the American Political Science Association as “the best book on law and politics published in 1990.”
Dr. Maiman has held appointments as a Visiting Fellow at the University of Essex in the U.K. and as a Fulbright Scholar at the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. His public service includes chairing Maine’s Committee on Judicial Responsibility and Disability.
“When I finished reading A Man for All Branches, I felt an admiration that bordered on awe, both for Frank Coffin and for Richard Maiman’s achievement in writing about his life. Frank deserved a great biography that will allow future generations to know him. Maiman has given us that biography. Frank would be pleased. We should be grateful.”
— From the Foreword by Kermit V. Lipez, Senior Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
“‘What is to be my contribution to my times?’ Frank Coffin wrote on his 40th birthday. Culled from a rich record of self-reflections, corroborated by interviews with family, clerks and colleagues, Professor Maiman’s biography of Judge Frank Coffin helps answer the question for this “relentless self-improver” from Lewiston, Maine, whose life and career were sculpted by the most interesting times of the Twentieth Century. A Man for All Branches is a good read about a life well lived, a man for all seasons and all branches, a mentor and great friend to many, whose life and works — from thousands of serious opinions, speeches, books and lectures to the light hearted but equally informative A Lexicon of Oral Advocacy, merit our continued attention for their eternal grace, wisdom and relevance. Here is a life — and a biography — that is an enormous contribution to all times.”
— Janet Mills, Governor, State of Maine
“As someone who was blessed with the chance to work closely with Judge Frank Coffin, I can attest to how truthful and beautifully-crafted Richard Maiman’s biography of him is. Making extensive use of Judge Coffin's personal journals as well as his voluminous case files, Maiman provides a sensitive exploration of the mind of one of America's most remarkable judges. This biography takes a fitting place beside Gunther’s magisterial biography of Learned Hand, and Dorsen’s of Henry Friendly – all insightful examinations of great judges who changed the course of American jurisprudence, and of the dynamics of decision-making in American courts.”
— Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley, and former United States Secretary of Labor
“When Judge Frank Coffin left us in 2009, the newest generation of lawyers, judges, and politicians lost the opportunity to spend time with one of Maine’s true treasures. For many of us who are now “mature,” Frank Coffin was a friend and a mentor. He was a person who livened up every conversation. He brought to all of our discussions his sharp sense of humor, warm affection and respect for a wide set of friends and colleagues, and deep knowledge of history, the law, and the struggle for justice.
In this book, Richard Maiman brings the real Frank Coffin into our homes and hearts again. Richard’s detailed and accessible writing provides a rich understanding of the Judge’s life and loves, and at the same time affords the reader a fascinating insider’s view of Maine politics. A Man for All Branches is a wonderful addition to the history of great Mainers and provides an important reminder that the connections among all of us are critical to the fabric of a healthy society. This book has arrived just in time.”
— Leigh I. Saufley, Dean, University of Maine School of Law, and former Chief Justice, Maine Supreme Judicial Court
“Frank Coffin possessed the finest legal mind, the most effective organizational skills, and the keenest wit of anyone I ever worked with. I consider him my judicial mentor. But as familiar as I was with Judge Coffin’s life and work, I still found this biography a page-turner. Richard Maiman has skillfully captured the remarkable qualities and impressive achievements that made the Judge such a memorable individual. While the book makes effective use of the huge Coffin archive, its greatest strength lies in how the public record is leavened with thoughts and reflections from the Judge’s personal journals which demonstrate his unique ability to critically look over his shoulder as he worked in all three branches of government. The journals round out a life, fully and honestly examined here, that will benefit any reader interested in improving the quality of public service.”
— Daniel E. Wathen, Former Chief Justice, Maine Supreme Judicial Court
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