Judge candidate profile: Craig R. Cooper

July 16, 2014
Craig Cooper

Craig Cooper

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief. 

If elected 51st Circuit Court Judge Craig Cooper would be replacing his father, Richard Cooper, who has served on the bench since 1979. The 31-year-old resides in Irons and has served as Lake County prosecuting attorney since 2012 and served as assistant prosecutor there since 2011. 

He is the third generation of his family to serve as Lake County prosecutor, which included his father and his grandfather, Dic Cooper.

Prior to that he worked as a private attorney with the law firm of Gockerman, Wilson, Saylor & Hesslin, P.C., Western Land Services, Inc., and Plante & Moran, PLLC. He has a broad range of legal experience, ranging from criminal, family, estate, civil, and business law.

Cooper was born and raised in Hamlin Township and graduated from Ludington High School in 2002. He attended the University of Michigan where he obtained his Bachelor of business administration degree with an emphasis in business law and accounting. He obtained his law degree from Michigan State University College of Law where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. While at MSU College of Law, he served on the Law Review as managing editor and worked for the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Tax Tribunal.

Cooper is an Eagle Scout from Troop 1190 based out of the Community Church in Ludington where he is also a church member. He currently serves on the board of directors of the President Ford Field Service Council and is president of the Baldwin Rotary Club. Cooper is an avid outdoorsman, skier and enjoys playing the alto sax with the Scottville Clown Band, as does his father.

MCP: What do you believe to be the root causes for the high numbers of repeat offenders? 

CC: You see a lot of the repeat offenders in criminal sexual conduct cases. Some of the abuse can go unreported for years. It’s hard on the victim and sometimes that abuse can go down to the next generation. The perpetrator is often a person who was abused when they were younger and that carries on to the next generation. Often in these cases the perpetrator doesn’t acknowledge that they did anything wrong.

I think a lot of it boils down to is as a court system the court can hold those people accountable for their actions.

MCP: Do you believe the composition of juries adequately and fairly reflects society at large? Why or why not? If not, what can we do to change this? 

CC: I think it does. Basically the juries pool is drawn from the driver’s license records at Michigan Secretary of State. I think the juries here within the 51st Circuit tend to be very invested in the case. That’s what it takes to be a good juror. A jury is supposed to be a cross selection of society and I think it is.

MCP: Do you have a plan regarding improving court procedures and efficiency? 

CC: When the case gets to court, that’s usually because the parties haven’t been able to resolve their issues, especially in civil cases. The judge does have control over the scheduling order to set the time line for the cases.

MCP: What do you perceive as the greatest obstacles to justice, if any? 

CC: It’s a combination of factors. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest standard in law. Juries always do a good job of recognizing that the prosecutor has to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

I see obstacles in domestic assault cases. It can be strenuous for a victim to go through the court system. It takes a lot of strength and courage for them to do that. Resources are always an issue.

MCP: Do you believe there is such a thing as a “victimless crime?” If so, what offenses would you place in this category?

CC: When the term victimless crime is used, a lot of time it’s in the drug context. I don’t really think that’s really true when you are dealing with your more severe drug type cases that have an overall affect on society. It trickles down and can affect neighborhoods.

MCP: As a prospective judge, what do you consider your greatest strengths?

CC: I always treat everybody with respect no matter who the person is. If they do a crime they need to be held accountable for those actions and face the proper consequences. As a judge I can set that standard for the court as far as what those consequences are going to be. That becomes a standard and people can learn.

In civil cases there can be a lot of emotions involved. One ability I have is I have the ability to diffuse the situation. I would let each party present their side of the case.

MCP: Describe your most difficult case. 

CC: During a cocaine case, I had a witness who was going to be a witness to the cocaine transaction and she was a former girlfriend to the defendant. I thought we had her cooperation and she did cooperate in the pre-trial proceedings. But at the trial she decided to recant and she said that she didn’t see anything happen. She was the direct witness. We were able to win the case because luckily we had police officers who were also observers to the transaction.

MCP: What are the pros and cons of going to the bench as compared to practicing law? 

CC: Being a judge you have to have a sense of serving the public. I like representing the public. I have been doing it as a prosecutor. My dad has been representing the public and I have learned a lot from him and the respect he has for the residents of the circuit. I know the judge doesn’t take joy in resolving conflicts.

Some of the negative aspects is you have to have a thick skin to be a judge.

MCP: What is your general judicial philosophy? 

CC: My judicial philosophy when it comes to criminal case is the judge is the last person to hold somebody accountable for their crimes and that’s what I intend to do. There’s going to be proper consequences for the actions a defendant makes. In civil cases, I have a good general background for civil cases where I know there’s both sides that need to be addressed, especially when looking at a divorce — especially when children are involved.

MCP: Why should voters support you rather than your opponents? 

CC: There’s a lot of different factors that go into play for being a good judge. I’m loyal to the areas. There’s no other area I respect more than the 51st Circuit. I was born and raised in the Ludington area and always had a fondness for that aspect. I’m going to serve this area and if I’m elected the residents will be proud that they elected me. I’m at the point also where I have been practicing law long enough and I’m old enough where I do have the beginnings of wisdom. That’s obviously an important trait to have in a judge. Also I’m young enough where I am going to serve the residents long term. I will be loyal to the area.

MCP: Why do you want the job? 

CC: There are a lot of serious cases out there, civil and criminal. I have a good sense in being able to decipher the facts.


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