Early in his judicial career, Judge Coffin proffered the concept of “workability” as one of the core factors in judging. Justice and Workability: Un Essai, his first published reflection on this idea, appeared in the Suffolk University Law Review in 1971. To frame the discussion, he started with a formal definition: “[T]he extent to which a rule protecting a right, enforcing a duty, or setting a standard of conduct—which is consistent with and in the interests of social justice—can be pronounced with reasonable expectation of effective observance without impairing the essential functioning of those to whom the rule applies.” This Article explores the ways in which the concept of workability became richer over time as the Judge limned out its relationship to the decisions of the First Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court, pitting individual rights against the imperatives of governmental institutions and the jurisprudence of the era.

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