Catalyst Magazine

Continuing a Legacy of Legal Advocacy

Chris Coffin
Photo provided by Chris Coffin
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hris Coffin, JD ’99, describes his approach to practicing law as acknowledging the person behind the case. “It is one thing to represent someone on paper,” he says, “another thing to know them as a human being.” He credits this humanistic approach to his professor, mentor, and friend, Stan Herr, JD.

“His education molded the way I practice law today.”

Herr, a professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law for over 15 years before his passing in 2001, dedicated his life’s work to dismantling legal barriers and advocating for the rights of persons with physical and mental disabilities. Among his many accomplishments, Herr served as the lead counsel in the 1972 landmark case Mills vs. Board of Education, which led to the requirement of all public schools to extend equal access to children with disabilities. 

Stan was a true leader in the work of furthering the rights of people with disabilities as well as being a great teacher and mentor to students, many of whom continued his work.”

Susan Leviton, JD ’72, professor emerita and founder of the Disability Rights Clinic

Coffin fondly remembers Herr as a powerful educator who created opportunities for him and his fellow classmates to learn through experience. From providing legal assistance to those in a state mental institution and volunteering at the local Special Olympics, to advocating for disability rights legislation with Maryland state senators and observing U.S. Supreme Court proceedings, Herr gave students a hands-on education about the power of the law.

Coffin, a partner at Pendley, Baudin & Coffin, believes that his former classmates share his appreciation for the legal education and guidance received from Herr and Maryland Carey Law. In honor of their 20th reunion, Coffin is challenging his classmates and Herr’s other mentees to join him in making a lasting contribution. Coffin established The Professor Stanley S. Herr Scholarship Fund and pledges to match up to $50,000 in donations so that Herr’s legacy may continue to live on in perpetuity through the students who share his passion of advocacy for mental health and disability rights. 

There is no shortage of students who strive to emulate Herr’s legacy of legal advocacy. Dual-degree student Kelsey Robinson (who hopes to earn her MSW in 2020 and JD in 2021) was a 2019 recipient of the Maryland Public Interest Law Project summer fellowship, which is partially funded by amemorial fund created in Herr’s honor. Robinson was inspired by Herr, saying “his extensive work in the field of law and the mentally ill is the exact reason why I came to law school. … He advocated to protect the rights of individuals with mental illness through a civil lens, and I want to do the same thing through a criminal lens. … This has further validated my passion for going into the legal field.”

Coffin’s goal for The Professor Stanley S. Herr Scholarship Fund “is to create a fund to last in perpetuity to continue to provide quality education to students who want to pursue careers advancing the rights of persons with physical and mental disabilities.” This scholarship will allow current and future students to continue Herr’s work as professionals who see beyond the paper to the people their work touches. C

Click here to contribute to the Herr fund. 

Have a question? Contact John Palinski in the UMB Office of Philanthropy at jpalinski@umaryland.edu.

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Kate Ostrowski

Kate Ostrowski, MPP, is the associate director, foundation operations and compliance, and board relations, in the Office of Philanthropy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

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