London-based Covington & Burling partner Christopher "Casey" Cooper, a former U.S. Department of Justice official and member of President Barack Obama's 2008 transition team, was nominated late yesterday to a serve on Washington's federal district court.
Cooper's practice focuses on global anti-corruption matters. He joined Covington in 2012 from Baker Botts, where he'd been a partner since 2001. He started his career at the Justice Department, serving as special assistant to the deputy attorney general from 1994 to 1996.
If confirmed, he'd replace Senior Judge Royce Lamberth, who stepped down as chief judge last month. There are currently two vacancies on the court; the White House hasn't picked a nominee for the second slot, which was created when Judge John Bates became director of the federal judiciary's administrative office last month. Cooper declined to comment.
Past and present colleagues described Cooper as "thoughtful," "low key" and a good listener.
"He has a wonderful demeanor that will translate well to the bench," Covington chair Timothy Hester said. During a recent business trip the two took to India, Hester said Cooper acted with a steady hand. "We would be in a discussion talking about a complicated issue…and he listened, he took it on board, thought hard about it and gave me a very thoughtful, balanced view on how we should respond to it," he said.
Before joining Covington, Cooper spent the bulk of his career at Baker Botts. From 1996 to 2001, he was an associate at Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin, which merged with Baker Botts in 2001.
"He has the kind of soft-spoken, thoughtful demeanor that’s going to generate respect among all the lawyers that appear before him," Baker Botts partner William Jeffress Jr. said.
Jeffress acknowledged he was somewhat biased, though, since he's also Cooper's father-in-law—Cooper is married to Amy Jeffress, the Justice Department's attaché at the U.S. embassy in London and former national security counselor to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.
After earning his J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1993 and clerking for Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Cooper went to the Justice Department.
His boss at the time, former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, now a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, said via email that when Cooper was at the Justice Department, he "showed the very qualities that will make him a spectacular judge."
"The only issues that come to the DAG’s office are the hardest ones—those that can’t be resolved below, those that have partisans on both sides within and without the Department," Gorelick said. "Casey took those hard issues, thought deeply, listened carefully and unfailingly reached sound, balanced and principled judgments."
In 2008, Cooper served on Obama's transition team, advising on Justice Department issues.
Although most of his client matters have been confidential, he assisted William Jeffress in representing Saudi officials against ultimately unsuccessful litigation seeking to hold them liable for the September 11 terrorist attacks. Jeffress counted Lockheed Martin among Cooper's past clients.
Cooper would be Obama's seventh appointee to the 15-member D.C. federal trial court. The president will get to pick a special 16th judge because of Bates' appointment to the administrative office. Bates will continue to serve on the court.