Monday, February 06, 2023

Much, Much Too Soon

By Michael Caruso

They say you don’t know a person until you live with them. I would say that you don’t know a judge until you try a case in her courtroom. Before she took the bench, I heard from a colleague that Judge Cooke would be a great addition to our court (you were right, Hugo). Once she took the bench, I wandered into her courtroom to watch David in action, and she impressed me (for what that’s worth) with how she handled the jury, witnesses, and lawyers. But I had never met her. 

Shortly after, my boss assigned me to a case before Judge Cooke. My involvement began in 2005. The pre-trial preparation and litigation spanned two years, the trial lasted six months, and the sentencing, appeal, and resentencing extended the case until 2014. Over those nine years, I got to know Judge Cooke reasonably well, but only as a judge. When I started working with the CJA Committee, where Judge Cooke acted as the court’s member, I began to get to know her as a person.

And that’s what I’ll remember and miss the most. Judge Cooke seemed to have a never-ending supply of sayings and comebacks that always made me smile. Because I was a cook in my previous life, we often talked about food, and sharing a meal with her always was a special event for me. Despite not having a team in common, we bonded over our love of sports. I could go on and on. But, at bottom, although Judge Cooke was a truly excellent and outstanding judge, as a person, she was an extraordinary gift to all who knew her. 

Undoubtedly, others knew Judge Cooke longer and better. I’m happy I knew her at all. Rest in peace, Judge.


Rumpole said...

Well said Michael. Heartfelt and sincere. I knew her even less well but I knew she was the type of judge I wanted to be in front of. A friend of mine was trying a case before her and at a break she called all parties into chambers. She didn’t know the defense counsel well and told him that in her opinion the defendant was going to be convicted but she recognized a lot of mitigation in the defense presented and could something be worked out ? Very few judges who just call balls and strikes would have the humanity to do that.

Anonymous said...

Why does a trial need to last six months?

Anonymous said...

interesting thats what 11:02 focused on

Anonymous said...

On the civil side, when you drew Judge Cooke, you knew you would have a fair shake. She wouldn't find reasons to kick out a case just to lower her numbers, but she also wasn't afraid to dismiss a meritless lawsuit. She adjudicated her cases with principle and fairness. And if you appeared in a hearing before her, you knew you were in for a treat.