Michael P. Koskoff (1942-2019)
He was a powerhouse civil rights advocate, crusader for justice, and a role model for so many of us in the legal profession. He was fearless and relentless.
– Senator Richard Blumenthal
To know MICHAEL KOSKOFF was to love him. For more than 40 years, Michael defended people’s civil rights and protected people and their families from the ravaging effects medical malpractice. He was a powerhouse courtroom litigator, widely known for his innovation. He was an unapologetic optimist, who threw himself into every case with passion and creativity. He viewed the law as a service industry in which the role of the lawyer was to serve his or her client. He was a tenacious fighter who earned the respect of judges and his adversaries throughout his career. Above all he believed in the inherent goodness and intelligence of all people. For him, there was no greater honor than to present a case to a jury made up of the community, and he trusted jurors above everyone else to do what was right and fair.
Michael always put obtaining justice for his clients above all else. In the early 70’s, Michael, alongside his father Ted, represented Lonnie McLucas , a New Haven member of the Black Panthers who was accused of murder. Of that trial, Michael said, “It is thrilling to have participated in one of the most important trials of the past 50 years.” Following that case, Michael handled many high-profile cases, including working with African-American police and fire organizations to increase representation of minorities in public safety.
In 1979, he became the first lawyer to obtain a verdict of more than 1 million dollars in a wrongful death case, and for the next 40 years became a pioneer in medical malpractice cases. He was routinely asked to teach lawyers locally and nationally on how to try cases, communicate with jurors, interrogate experts, tell stories, and solve problems with creativity and optimism. He was lead counsel in a class action against the State of Connecticut for illegally wiretapping calls between lawyers and clients. His passion for justice and his love of representing people in just cases never wavered. Only one month before he died he filed a landmark case against Harvard University for seizing and profiting from historic photos of American Slaves. It was vintage Michael Koskoff.
Before he became a lawyer, Michael contemplated choosing theater over law. He came from a performing-arts family: his grandmother had been an actress, his grandfather had been a singer, two cousins were composers, and his father had been a professional cellist before starting the Koskoff firm. Michael studied at the American Shakespeare Academy before deciding on a career in law.
He counted among his greatest successes co-writing, with his son Jacob, the screenplay for the critically acclaimed movie Marshall, which revolved around a case early in the career of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and highlighted racial injustice.
He was Connecticut’s first member of The Inner Circle of Advocates, an organization limited to the top 100 trial lawyers in the country, and served as its president in 2011-12. He received Lifetime Achievement Awards from Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association, American Association for Justice, and the Connecticut Law Tribune.
Michael has graced the covers of Connecticut Super Lawyers and Connecticut Magazine’s “Top Lawyers” issue. A nationally acclaimed book, Damages, by Barry Werth, concerns a major medical malpractice case led by Michael. He served as a frequent guest on Court TV and lectured extensively around the nation.
Michael’s spirit of energy, optimism, and courage will forever live on at the Koskoff firm.