May 14, 2013
ATLANTA – Cynthia Honssinger Coffman (JD '91), a member of the sixth graduating class of the College of Law, is the Chief Deputy in the Colorado Office of the Attorney General. She oversees a staff of 260 practicing attorneys and 150 employees who provide administrative support.
"Managing the largest law office in the state offers a host of challenges and also remarkable opportunities," said Coffman. "In my role as the Attorney General's advisor on legal and policy issues, I have input into a wide array of legal issues. I am the consummate generalist who has to know something about everything or know who to call in order to get up to speed quickly."
Working in the public sector allows Coffman to engage in issues of importance to her community and state. Health law is one of many facets of Coffman's practice. In her first position in the Georgia Attorney General's Office, Coffman recalls representing the state's division of public health during a debate over named reporting of HIV-infected patients. "After that, I was hooked!" she reflected. "Each of the positions I have served in has tackled some aspect of health law."
In the past, Coffman worked with the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment on a variety of topics including medical marijuana, bioterrorism preparedness, immunization rates, anti-smoking laws, and disease control. Later, as chief counsel to the governor, she focused on issues of environmental health and violence prevention.
In addition to practicing law and advising her clients, including state agencies, boards and commissions, and elected officials, Coffman manages a $61 million dollar budget, ensures that her employees have the resources needed to do their jobs, handles personnel matters, and acts as chief morale officer. "The common thread in my work is people – being able to listen, understand, and address their concerns in a way that advances the mission of the Department of Law," Coffman reflected.
Since joining the Colorado Attorney General's Office in 2005, Coffman has observed an increased awareness of health law's significance among attorneys general nationally. "I've been pleased by the recent emphasis of programming on how states' attorneys can improve health outcomes in their states. Initiatives related to tobacco, obesity, school lunch programs, and food safety are now commonplace." Additionally, the National Attorney General's Training and Research Institute has partnered with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to create a public health law fellowship program allowing attorneys with public health law experience to conduct focused research on current issues.
Coffman keeps her hand in health law working on projects like the state health benefit exchange and implementation of the Affordable Care Act. "There are so many fascinating options for those interested in health law to contribute to the betterment of our communities and have a rewarding career," she said.
Stacie P. Kershner, JD
Associate Director, Center for Law, Health & Society