Howard M. Cooper is a Founding Partner of Todd & Weld LLP. Mr. Cooper's experience includes over three decades of extensive trial practice in state and federal courts, before administrative agencies and licensing boards, and in arbitration in the areas of complex civil disputes and criminal defense. Mr. Cooper regularly represents clients in major civil cases in the areas of corporate, closely-held business, real estate, partnership, malpractice, trade secret and franchise litigation.
Mr. Cooper also regularly handles significant civil rights and First Amendment matters, which are often of public significance. On the criminal side, Mr. Cooper regularly handles white collar criminal cases from the internal investigation stage through trial and appeal. This includes the defense of organizations and individuals targeted for prosecution in federal and state court in false claim, environmental, tax or public corruption investigations.
Recently, Mr. Cooper has been asked to defend physicians practicing in the area of pain medicine who have been targeted for prosecution for allegedly prescribing opioids to patients in violation of federal drug laws. In a high-profile trial that took place in the spring of 2015, United States v. Dr. Joseph Zolot, Mr. Cooper's client was acquitted of all charges after an eight-week trial brought by the United States Attorney's Office in Boston. The case was reported on nationally and was the subject matter of a Wall Street Journal editorial decrying governmental overreach in using vague federal drug laws to prosecute physicians.
For the past several years, Mr. Cooper has been counsel to the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe as the Tribe has pursued its rights to build a destination resort casino in Massachusetts. Mr. Cooper's representation of the Mashpee Wampanoag has included compact negotiations with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, representation before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, assistance with the Tribe's federal efforts to obtain trust land, and litigation concerning the Tribe's aboriginal hunting and fishing rights.
Mr. Cooper represented South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC), an anti-poverty agency, in its landmark and highly successful case against the Town of Framingham and numerous Framingham public officials in which the agency sought to secure fair housing rights for the disabled. The widely reported 2010 settlement of that case included a payment of $1 million to SMOC, and a commitment by the defendants to training and future compliance with applicable civil rights laws in a settlement approved by the United States District Court. The Court's 100-page decision denying the defendants' multiple motions for summary judgment can be found at South Middlesex Opportunity Council v. Town of Framingham, et al., 752 F.Supp. 2d 85 (2010).
Mr. Cooper successfully obtained a jury verdict after a month-long trial against a Massachusetts-based class action lawyer who defamed an Ohio debt collection agency in a public figure corporate defamation case, a verdict upheld after appeal in 2012. In connection with that case, Mr. Cooper argued successfully in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in The Cadle Company v. Jan Schlictmann, 448 Mass. 242 (2007), establishing important precedent under the Massachusetts Anti-SLAPP statute.
Mr. Cooper successfully defended a large automotive distributor sued in a civil RICO and anti-trust class action by its New England franchised dealers. The dismissal of the case in the United States District Court of New Hampshire after several years of litigation was later affirmed by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Lussier v. Subaru of New England, et al., 393 F.3d 36 (2004).
Mr. Cooper successfully defended the purchaser and redeveloper of the NECCO Candy Building in Cambridge against a $40 million claim brought by The Lyme Timber Company and others, a judgment which was upheld by the Massachusetts Appeals Court in DSF Investors LLC v. The Lyme Timber Company, et al., 67 Mass. App. Ct. 1110, 854 N.E.2d 1267 (2006).
Mr. Cooper has also successfully defended an adoption agency sued over an international adoption in a case of first impression in Massachusetts in Forbes v. The Alliance for Children, Inc. (Suffolk Superior Court, 1999).
Examples of Mr. Cooper's other successes on the criminal side include the successful defense of a professional basketball player in a complex sexual assault case, the defense of executives, businesses and an Indian Tribe in white collar criminal matters, and his achieving recognition by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Bradstreet, 207 F.3d 76 (2000), of a previously unrecognized basis for a sentencing departure in a white collar criminal case of first impression. Mr. Cooper has been a member of the federal court Criminal Justice Act Panel for many years, and in that capacity has handled both white collar and street crime matters in the United States District Courts in Boston and Worcester.
Mr. Cooper has been asked to represent members of the judiciary on numerous occasions. A June 1, 2010 Boston Globe article described him as the "go to" lawyer for judges. In this regard, Mr. Cooper's trial successes have included the widely reported case resulting in a $2.1 million jury verdict on behalf of Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Ernest Murphy against The Boston Herald. That decision has been hailed nationally as a landmark public figure defamation case important to the independence of the judiciary. The jury verdict in favor of the judge was upheld by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Murphy v. Herald, et al., 449 Mass. 42, 865 N.E.2d 746 (2007). In its unanimous decision, the SJC commented that as a result of Mr. Cooper's cross-examination of the Herald reporter who wrote the stories about Judge Murphy, the reporter's credibility at trial was left “in tatters.”
Mr. Cooper successfully defended Judge Leon Kendall against criminal contempt charges alleging that he had obstructed justice and disobeyed an order of the Virgin Islands Supreme Court in refusing to preside over a first degree murder trial after discovering gross prosecutorial misconduct. In April 2013, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a case of first impression, exonerated Judge Kendall on all charges. The 58-page decision is reported at In Re: The Honorable Leon Kendall, No. 11-4471 (2013). Mr. Cooper also successfully sued the Virgin Islands Commission on Judicial Disabilities to stop disciplinary proceedings against Judge Kendall based upon his bail and sentencing decisions. The case is reported at Hon. Leon A. Kendall v. Sen. Ronald E. Russell et al., 49 V.I. 602 (2008), and was also affirmed by the Third Circuit in 2009.
Mr. Cooper has handled other cases on behalf of judges and public officials that have been widely reported on in the legal and other press. This has included his procuring an on-air apology from WEEI talk show hosts Dennis and Callahan for making allegedly defamatory statements about members of a prominent Massachusetts family, and his representation of United States Congressman John Tierney in defeating a libel case brought by his electoral opponent in the midst of an election campaign.
In the area of civil rights, Mr. Cooper, as lead coordinating counsel for the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild, successfully represented the Occupy Boston movement in 2011 on a pro bono basis in obtaining a temporary restraining order allowing the protesters to remain encamped in Dewey Square in Boston for nearly a month after other encampments had been dispersed nationally.
Mr. Cooper also successfully represented a Boston area Islamic group in connection with their building of a Mosque and Cultural Center in Roxbury who, post 9/11, came under attack from Islamaphobic organizations. Mr. Cooper's representation of the Boston area Muslim community in that case has been widely described as courageous, and he received an award presented by Boston area Muslims thanking him for his commitment to civil rights and religious freedom.
Mr. Cooper's practice also includes representation of companies and individuals who are the subject of investigations before licensure boards, and advising clients generally about their rights, obligations and potential liabilities before litigation arises.