Tag Archives: Josh Koskoff

Remembering Michael Koskoff

The New York Times summed up the full life of a remarkable man in its lead paragraph:

Michael Koskoff, a renowned and dogged Connecticut litigator who defended Black Panthers, won record malpractice awards, mounted racial job-discrimination battles and sued gunmakers whose weapons were used in the Sandy Hook school massacre, died on Wednesday in a Manhattan hospital. He was 77.

The story details many more achievements of the longtime Westporter, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer.

He collaborated with his son Jacob on the screenplay for “Marshall,” the 2017 film about a major civil rights case — in Bridgeport – litigated by future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall. (Click here for the complete “06880” story.)

Michael Koskoff’s son Josh was a partner in their law firm. This photo was taken as they worked on an important gun rights case just a month before Michael died.

With his other son, Westport resident Josh — a senior partner in the law firm Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder — he won an important gun rights case last month. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that manufacturers of guns used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre can be held liable, in a suit brought by victims’ families.

Another celebrated case — involving hiring quotas in Bridgeport for black and Hispanic police officers — led to similar suits elsewhere. The result was more minorities being hired by police and fire departments across the country.

Michael Koskoff also “pioneered the use of vivid courtroom videos delivered in a documentary format,” the Times said.

He is survived by Rosalind Jacobs, his wife of 56 years; sons Josh and Jacob; daughters Sarah (an actress and screenwriter) and Juliet (a lawyer in New York); 2 sisters, and 8 grandsons.

Roz and Michael Koskoff

Michael Koskoff was a very devoted father and grandfather. In a torrent of tributes, some of the most eloquent were posted on social media by those closest to him.

The day after his father died, Jacob wrote:

Over the past 24 hours many have said they are sorry for our loss, and I haven’t been able to pinpoint why that hasn’t sounded right. But the answer is obvious: from the very beginning, it was just so incredibly unfair how fortunate we were to have had him as a father.

A month earlier, on his father’s birthday, Jacob had said:

Soon after he got his diagnosis, my dad and I were walking in downtown Westport waiting for our takeout. It was dark and cold, and he was slow, and I was holding a box of cupcakes — students were raising money for something that I’m pretty sure was never explained to us. For the first time I asked him how he was feeling, in the greater sense. He took one breath and said, “I’m just glad this happened after the movie came out. If it had been before, I’d be seriously pissed.”

He has 8 grandsons, and each one is his favorite.

Eyes on the Prize. Wild Strawberries. Shakespeare at The Public Theater. He took me to see Annie when I was 8. Henry IV parts 1 and 2 a few years later. He is the most unpretentious, socially conscious, opera-loving wine connoisseur you’ll ever meet.

Michael and Jake Koskoff, collaborating on “Marshall.”

We went to dozens of Mets games together. He coached my Little League teams with his friend Terry Smith. They would sometimes pick the batting lineup out of a hat. He knew little about how the game was played and had no business coaching a team of 13-15-year-olds. He’d hit fielding practice and say “third base,” then weakly ground the ball to first. He had devoted himself to the sport, had humbled himself, only to be closer to me. Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

Joan Baez taught him how to play the guitar in Harvard Square.

He once lent a car he wasn’t using to an acquaintance. Not even a friend, just someone he knew who needed a car. He never saw the car again. Not only did my dad not report it to the police, but for years he paid the guy’s parking tickets.

What’s the opposite of self-pity? Right, gratitude. That’s his religion: live with grace and kindness, persistence, generosity, and always, whenever possible, with gratitude.

Michael Koskoff and Barack Obama share smiles.

Michael’s daughter Juliet Koskoff Diamond added:

He died as he lived, with grace and gratitude for all the gifts he has been giving. In the end he was surrounded by his family, listening, to Mozart and quoting Shakespeare. He was able to say goodbye and was at peace.

And Josh’s wife, Darcy Hicks, wrote:

My father-in-law, Mike Koskoff, spent 77 years blasting this earth with love and justice. Knowing him made your life easier. He made it easy to become a part of his amazing family. He made it easier to laugh when you thought you weren’t in the mood. He made it easier to see the path to justice when no one thought there was one.

And mostly, he made it easy to love everyone- because through his eyes, empathy spilled and cleaned the view, so everyone who knew him could see how to live better. There’s only one thing he made impossible: doing that deifying thing we do about someone when they die. He just didn’t leave us any room to embellish him.

(Click here for the full New York Times obituary.)

Staples Students Fight Gun Violence

The other day, 2 students were killed — and 18 injured — in a Kentucky school shooting.

It barely registered as news.

We’ve grown so inured to the drumbeat of gun violence — 89 people are shot to death each day in America, including far too many young people — that it’s become almost a non-issue.

But “almost” means there’s still hope.

At Staples High School, students in Cathy Schager’s Contemporary World social studies class have formed a community action group.

It’s called Disarm Gun Violence: Educating the Public About Common Sense Gun Laws.

Ms. Schager’s class created a poster, and hung it near the Staples cafeteria. Each dot represents one child killed by a gun last year. This is a small section of the poster.

This Monday (January 29, 7 p.m., Staples library) they’re hosting an event. There are 2 goals: raising awareness, and encouraging a community conversation.

A short documentary will be followed by a panel. Speakers include Westport police chief Foti Koskinas, and Josh Koskoff, a Westport resident and attorney representing 10 Sandy Hook victims’ families, in a suit against Bushmaster Firearms.

The evening includes a raffle. Proceeds will go to Sandy Hook Promise and CT Against Gun Violence.

Because — far too often — this issue hits very close to home.

Please Excuse Eli And Lulu …

This is the time of year when 12th graders suffer serious cases of senioritis.

But Eli Debenham and Lulu Stracher are 2 of Staples’ most politically aware — and active — students.

So this morning — instead of school — they headed to Norwalk Community College.

Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal discussed gun violence. The forum was moderated by Westport attorney Josh Koskoff.

It was an important, informative event. But afterward, Eli and Lulu had a typical high school worry: They needed a note for missing class.

No problem!

They just asked Senator Murphy to write one.

He happily obliged.

Lulu Stracher, Eli Debenham, and the man who excused them from class this morning.

The note read:

Please excuse my friends for their absence. I required their attendance in my forum on violence — under penalty of arrest! — Chris Murphy

You may like Connecticut’s junior senator or not. But you gotta admit: That’s great constituent service!

Lulu and Eli’s note.

Other Roots: A Very Different Tree Story

Yesterday, “06880” reported on the questionable status of a jinormous sycamore arcing across Long Lots Road.

Today’s post is about another tree. This one is going nowhere. Harding Lane residents make sure of that.

The story begins with Orvis Yingling. He, his wife and their 3 kids moved to Westport in the early 1960s, and took full advantage of the town. They were avid sailors. Orvis joined the board of the Nature Center (now Earthplace), and was a longtime Y member.

He and his wife climbed Mt. Everest before it was trendy. Back at sea level, Orvis walked up and down Harding Lane even after suffering a series of strokes.

When he died at 90, everyone on his road — honoring his fondness for nature — bought a tree in his memory.

Harding Lane tree

Orvis’ wife thought ahead. Knowing she’d be moving — and unsure what would happen to her home — she asked Josh Koskoff and his wife Darcy Hicks if it could be planted on their lawn. (They live on the corner of Hillspoint Road, so everyone on the cul-de-sac enjoys it.)

A couple of weeks ago, Orvis’ daughter brought over a plaque. It reads:

In memory of Orvis Yingling, Jr.
1919-2009
Gardener, Gentleman, Friend
Given by his neighbors

It makes his memorial a bit more official.

Though his tree will live on long after the lettering fades.

Sad footnote: Orvis’s wife was right. Her property is in the midst of being completely razed — trees and all.