ALAJ Salutes...

Gina Coggin

 

         
GADSDEN ---Gina Coggin was looking for a “get out of jail free” card when she decided to become a lawyer.
 
Coggin was home from college and “in trouble with my parents”. So she decided to go downstairs to her father John Coggin’s study, read his law books and just try to get back in good graces.
 
“I stayed down there forever,” she said. “I was just fascinated.”
 
The pre-med major went back to the University of Alabama, took a few law-related classes and just got the bug.
 
She then began going with her father, who was a district judge at the time, to hear cases. Her fate was sealed by two of her father’s actions: his involvement in a domestic case and his work in juvenile court.
 
“I went with him to hear a domestic case in Scottsboro and it was a particularly difficult case, it involved allegations of Satan worship..it was one of those bizarre cases that come along now and then,” she said. “During that case I realized how important law was relating to the lives of people.”
 
Then-Judge Coggin’s office also was filled with mementos from kids who had gotten in trouble. Mementos that thanked him for saving their life, talking the time to turn their life around.
 
“I knew that I wanted to do something that would make that kind of difference, make that kind of difference for the good,” she said.
 
Although she greatly admires her father, and his work, he did not push her toward being a lawyer, Coggin said. But, she is the first to admit, that he is proud of her.
 
“When we go places and people say that I am a good lawyer or praise the way I have handled myself in the courtroom, he beams with pride because he sees me being able to succeed in our profession.”
 
After graduating from Alabama, Coggin headed to Cumberland Law School, her father’s alma mater. She was very active in Moot Court, was on the National Trial Team and helped bring the Negotiation Team to Cumberland. Many of her fellow students were in law school to launch a lucrative career. Coggin said she was there so she could make a positive difference in people’s lives.
 
After graduation, the petite Coggin took somewhat of an unexpected path and went to work as an Etowah County assistant district attorney. She was in charge of a pilot program that centered on prosecuting child sex crimes. Again, a chance to help others.
 
“I remember a capital murder case where a woman and man were killed and two children were sodomized by the woman’s brother,” Coggin said. “Even though the family did not want the brother to be executed, it was a capital murder case and the little girls had to testify via videotape.
 
“I had to question those little girls and it was a good thing I was a woman and good thing that I was a little woman,” she said. “When I went home that day I knew that I had made a very, very horrible situation for those kids better and I had served my purpose.”
 
After a few years in the District Attorney’s office, Don Rhea recruited Coggin into his firm primarily to represent victims of employment discrimination.
 
“I asked my father what he thought I should do, I had never represented a plaintiff,” she said. “He told me the people I would be representing would be just as much victims as the victims I had represented in criminal cases.
 
“And they are,” she added. “They are victims of corporate greed, victims of horrible behavior by CEOs, victims of unsafe working conditions; they are all victims, just victims of a different kind.”
 
Coggin’s passion for helping people won her the ALAJ Al Sansone award a few years ago, has made her a must call person when ALAJ needs help on legislative issues and has taken her to her current job as chair person of the association’s worker’s comp division.
 
Her zeal does not go unnoticed in the courtroom, the Statehouse, her church and her latest challenge, being a mother.
 
“I love being able to come to Montgomery and encourage our politicians to do the right thing,” she said. “I think as lawyers we have a moral obligation to try and balance the scales...as we all say...without us, who?”
 
On a more personal note, Coggin was introduced to her husband Mark by a “very sweet, wonderful, nosey” member of her parent’s church. At the time, he had just finished performing on a cruise ship and was working in Myrtle Beach. She is the first to admit they seemed like an unlikely pair.
 
“Mark’s parents went to church with me and my parents, and so did the woman who introduced us,” Coggin said.”She just kept on and on and on about the two of us meeting. He came home one weekend, we met, and I gave him my email address.”
 
Mark, a trained opera singer who had traveled all over the world, decided it was time to settle down and Coggin decided it was literally a match made in heaven.
 
“There is no way this would have happened if God hadn’t wanted it to,” she said.
 
They will be married three years in October and have recently adopted a baby, Emily Ann.
 
“Being a mother has made me a better person, a better wife, and a better lawyer,” she said. “I now have a greater understanding of and sympathy for what families go through.
 
“I understand the victim of an automobile wreck who can’t work and doesn’t know how they are going to buy diapers; a father who has been injured on the job and wonders how in the world he is going to support his family on a worker’s compensation check.”
 
Coggin also is very involved in the World Outreach Center, where Mark is the worship pastor.
 
“People are very surprised when they first find out I am a lawyer,” she said. “As a Christian I believe your ministry is your job and I know that I am serving the greater good and the Lord in my practice.”
 
For her quest to find the greater good for all, Gina Coggin is ALAJ’s Champion of Justice.