Covington & Burling partner Christopher "Casey" Cooper told the Senate Judiciary Committee he usually keeps his work close to the vest. For 15 years, Cooper has represented companies in confidential, non-public grand jury and government investigations of fraud and corruption.
But Cooper, nominated to Washington's federal district court in August, couldn't conceal everything about his legal work. In papers submitted to the Senate, Cooper disclosed his partner salaries at Covington and Baker Botts, his $8.5 million net worth and the cases he considers the biggest he's worked on.
Senators today asked a few tough questions during Cooper's confirmation hearing before the judiciary committee. Cooper was asked about how he would deal with his lack of bench experience. He was probed on his views on whistleblower protections. And Senators asked him to explain his comment—on a panel last year—about "creative lawyering."
Cooper testified he didn't remember using the phrase, but he insisted did not mean anything unethical. Instead, he meant that a company has the obligation and opportunity to find out all the facts surrounding potential misconduct—"both those that are incriminating and those that may be exculpatory," he said.
"And that is where lawyers can influence the outcome of results for their company once the investigation becomes known," Cooper said.
Cooper's 56-page committee questionnaire revealed a few more details about career.
Cooper reported $1.2 million in partnership income at Baker Botts in 2011, when the company reported $1.39 million profits per partner as part of the AmLaw 100 survey. At the time, he had been with Baker Botts for 11 years, the first nine in the Washington and then in the London office starting in 2010.
He jumped to Covington's London office in February 2012 to boost the firm's anti-corruption and white-collar practices. He reported $847,156 in partnership income in 2012, and $702,786 in 2013 through July.
That would put him on pace to make at least $1.2 million in 2013, about what the firm showed for profits per partner in 2012. Covington typically distributes a portion of its current year income to partners on a deferred basis, Cooper told the Senate committee. His $8.5 million net worth comes mainly from $3.1 million in real estate and $5.7 million in securities.
Cooper applied for the federal trial bench when he was working in London. Nominated by President Obama in August, Cooper moved back to Covington's Washington office one month later. One other novelty about his work history: Cooper has been the director (since 1988) and chairman (since 1994) of the Christian Benevolent Funeral Home Inc. in Mobile, Ala.
As far as his legal work, most of that is non-public or legally privileged internal investigations into potential violations of law, Cooper told the committee.
"An example of this aspect of my practice – which I am at liberty to disclose because it was publicly disclosed in securities filings by my client's parent corporation – is my representation of Hughes Space & Communications Inc. in connection with a federal grand jury investigation in Washington, D.C.," Cooper wrote in his questionnaire.
The investigation centered on the work of an expert scientific panel – which included two Hughes engineers – that met on two occasions with Chinese engineers about a failed commercial satellite launch in China, Cooper wrote.
Prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, after reading a lengthy written submission and meeting with Cooper, declined to seek criminal charges against Hughes related to whether the company constituted unlicensed "defense service."
Cooper told the judiciary committee he would have to recuse himself from cases involving his family. He is married to Amy Jeffress, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs ("Hands down the most talented lawyer in the household," Cooper told the committee today).
His father in law is Baker Botts partner William Jeffress Jr., who has handled matters before the federal district court. His brother-in-law Jonathan Jeffress, an assistant federal defender in the district.
There were three judges from Washington federal district court in the hearing: Senior Judge Royce Lamberth (“Whose seat and very large shoes I would have the difficult time of filling if I amfortunate enough to be confirmed,” Cooper said), Senior Judge Paul Friedman and Judge James "Jeb" Boasberg.