Judge Coffin died yesterday, at the age of 90. I'm sure a lot will be written about him. Here are two illustrative anecdotes.
1. I had my first First Circuit argument in front of him when I was just starting out. My job was to explain why oil was not a pollutant (funny how they give these interesting appeals to the newbie). The argument was lovely. The panel seemed to make it their challenge to help me come up with arguments – it was a real dialogue, and fun. I lost, of course, but they made what could have been a very unpleasant experience into a positive one, in which I not only learned a lot about the law, but also what a difference it makes when the people in charge are kind.
2. Many years later I was waiting for my argument, and he was again on the bench. The panel was hearing an argument about whether the police waited long enough after knocking before entering a home. The appellant's lawyer strode to the podium saying, "In the time it took me to approach this podium, the police -" at which point Judge Coffin, as always in a gentle tone, corrected him, noting the actual time it took, because he had been timing it. He was one sharp cookie.
Farewell Yoda; may the force be with you.