PHILIP G. COFFEY JR., 71; EX-FAMILY COURT JUDGE

Michael Huber Staff writer
Section: LOCAL,  Page: B7

Date: Saturday, November 25, 1989

Retired Albany County Family Court Judge Philip G. Coffey Jr. died Friday afternoon at St. Peter's Hospital after a long illness. A resident of Colonial Avenue, he was 71.


During his 20 years in Family Court, Judge Coffey heard up to 30 cases and hearings a day and often arrived at his chambers, usually at 8:15 a.m., without knowing what cases awaited him. "It's a challenge, and I love it," he said in a 1980 Times Union story. While presiding, Judge Coffey chose not to wear his judicial robes and often sat at a table instead of presiding from the bench.


Judge Edward S. Conway, a state Supreme Court justice and administrative judge of the Third Judicial District, said it was "not common" for judges to appear in court without robes, but "he felt there was something about a robe for Family Court that wasn't appropriate."


Conway knew Judge Coffey for more than 20 years and acted as toastmaster at a testimonial dinner held for him in 1984.


With a court demeanor that was low- key and unpretentious, "his temperament was excellent (for Family Court)," said Conway, who characterized Family Court as "probably the most difficult court in the state." Family Court handles juvenile crime cases, family disputes, and support payment and child custody cases as well as adoptions.


Speaking of the unique role that Family Court played in the judicial system, Judge Coffey said in the 1980 story that "a judge here is also a jury, mediator, disciplinarian, psychologist, psychiatrist, confessor and counselor. And, sometimes, he's expected to be a magician."


He most enjoyed presiding over adoption cases. "Sometimes, the new parents take pictures of the children on my lap," he said, "and it seems as though the rest of the day never happened."


After two decades and more than 50,000 cases and hearings, Judge Coffey decided not seek re-election to a third term in 1984.


The son of former Albany Police Chief Philip G. Coffey, he was born in Albany and graduated from Cathedral Academy, now Bishop Maginn High School, Siena College in Loudonville and the Albany Law School, Class of 1939.


During World War II, he served as an Army lieutenant colonel in a tank destroyer unit from 1941 to 1946. He was stationed in Europe and was awarded the Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star and four battle stars.


He spent three years as a special agent at the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington D.C. from 1947 to 1950 before serving as an Albany City Court judge for about a year.


He was appointed assistant district attorney in Albany County in 1950 and stayed in that position until 1958.


A Democrat, Judge Coffey maintained a private practice on State Street for many years until 1964, when he was first elected Family Court judge.


He was a member and past exalted ruler of the Albany Lodge of Elks No. 49 and a member of the Knights of Columbus, the New York District Attorneys Association, the Troop B Veterans Association, the Albany County Bar Association and the board of governors of the Normanside Country Club.


Judge Coffey was also a communicant of St. Catherine of Siena Roman Church in Albany and was a member of the church's Mens Club.


Survivors include his wife, Bennie


Jo Dreyer Coffey; three sons, Philip J. Coffey III of Hallstead, Pa., James Coffey and Thomas Coffey, both of Albany; two daughters, Patricia Lodge of Florida


and Mary Beth Belfiore of Albany; a sister, Sister Philip Maria of St. Joseph's Order


; two brothers, Eugene Coffey of Syracuse and John Coffey of Slingerlands; and six grandchildren.


Services will be at 9:30 a.m. Monday in the Magin and Keegan Funeral Home, 891 Madison Ave., Albany, and at 10 a.m. in St. Catherine of Siena Church, 435 New Scotland Ave. Burial will be in St. Agnes Cemetery, Menands.


Calling hours are 5-8 p.m. Sunday in the funeral home.