For over three decades, Howard M. Cooper has successfully handled on behalf of clients a wide array of litigation cases, often involving high-profile issues. His extensive trial court experience includes representing clients in complex civil disputes and criminal defense matters. In addition to regularly assisting clients in court, Mr. Cooper often appears on their behalf before administrative agencies and in arbitration. He counsels clients about their rights, obligations and potential liabilities before litigation arises.
Mr. Cooper, a Founding Partner of the firm, represents clients in civil cases related to corporate, closely-held business, real estate, partnership, malpractice, trade secret, and franchise litigation. He also regularly handles significant civil rights and First Amendment matters that are often of public significance. In criminal matters, 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.
Mr. Cooper's distinguished accomplishments involve various areas of law. Notable cases are highlighted below:
In May 2017, Mr. Cooper obtained a dismissal of all criminal charges against his clients in U.S. District Court in Boston involving "double-breasted" businesses and contributions to a pension fund. In a highly unusual outcome, the government agreed to dismiss all embezzlement and mail fraud charges involving the firm's clients, a New Hampshire-based asbestos removal company and its owner. The case involved complex issues as to whether a non-union employer that operates a so-called "double-breasted" business, where the non-union company is paired with a union company, is obligated to make pension fund contributions to the Massachusetts Laborers Benefits Funds in certain circumstances.
Mr. Cooper in May 2015 obtained a federal jury acquittal of a medical doctor on all eight counts of alleged violations of federal drug distribution laws and conspiracy. The doctor, Joseph P. Zolot, was a Needham, Mass.-based pain medicine physician whose office was raided by the government in May 2007, after which he was indicted on multiple counts of unlawfully prescribing opioids such as OxyContin, Fentanyl and Methadone to patients. A first trial ended in a hung jury. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz decided to retry the case, which resulted in the jury acquittal following 26 days of trial and 23 hours of deliberation.
Other examples of Mr. Cooper's successes in criminal matters include successfully defending a professional basketball player in a complex sexual assault case, as well as the defense of executives, businesses, and an Indian Tribe in white collar criminal matters. In a case of first impression, he obtained a previously unrecognized basis for a sentencing departure in a white collar criminal case. United States v. Bradstreet, 207 F.3d 76 (1st Cir. 2000).
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. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a case of first impression, exonerated Judge Kendall on all charges. 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 on his bail and sentencing decisions. Hon. Leon A. Kendall v. Sen. Ronald E. Russell, 49 V.I. 602 (2008) (affirmed by the 3rd Circuit).
Mr. Cooper has been a member of the federal court Criminal Justice Act Panel for many years. In that capacity, he has handled white collar and street crime matters in the U.S. District Courts in Boston and Worcester.
Mr. Cooper has represented 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. The decision has been hailed nationally as a landmark public figure defamation case important to the independence of the judiciary. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the jury verdict in favor of the judge. Murphy v. Herald, 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 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. The verdict was upheld after appeal. In connection with that case, Mr. Cooper argued successfully before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, establishing important precedent under the Massachusetts Anti-SLAPP statute. The Cadle Company v. Jan Schlictmann, 448 Mass. 242 (2007).
Mr. Cooper has handled other cases on behalf of judges and public officials that have been widely reported on in the media. For example, he procured an on-air apology from WEEI talk show hosts Dennis and Callahan for making allegedly defamatory statements about members of a prominent North Shore family. He represented U.S. Congressman John Tierney in defeating a libel case brought by his electoral opponent in the midst of an election campaign.
Mr. Cooper In December 2016 facilitated the settlement of a highly publicized, contentious dispute involving his client the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester and the Town of Dudley over the siting of an Islamic cemetery in that town.
He 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 U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. The court issued a 100-page decision denying the defendants' multiple motions for summary judgment. South Middlesex Opportunity Council v. Town of Framingham, 752 F. Supp. 2d 85 (D. Mass. 2010).
As lead coordinating counsel for the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild, Mr. Cooper successfully represented the Occupy Boston movement in 2011 on a pro bono basis. He obtained 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.
He successfully represented a Boston-area Islamic group in connection with their building of a mosque and cultural center in Roxbury. Post 9/11, the group came under attack from Islamophobic organizations. Mr. Cooper's representation of the Muslim community in that case has been widely described as courageous. He received an award presented by Boston-area Muslims thanking him for his commitment to civil rights and religious freedom.
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 U.S. District Court of New Hampshire after several years of litigation was later affirmed by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Lussier v. Subaru of New England, et al., 393 F.3d 36 (1st Cir. 2004).
Indian Tribal Law
For the past several years, Mr. Cooper has been lead counsel to the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribe as it 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.
In June 2017, he persuaded the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to reject the argument of defendants that the America Invents Act overrides a bar to appellate review of a remand order to state court. The precedential ruling defines the limits of appellate review of a remand order related to patent counterclaims.
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, which judgment was upheld by the Massachusetts Appeals Court. DSF Investors LLC v. The Lyme Timber Company, 67 Mass. App. Ct. 1110, 854 N.E.2d 1267 (2006).
In a case of first impression in Massachusetts, Mr. Cooper successfully defended an adoption agency sued over an international adoption. Forbes v. The Alliance for Children, Inc. (Suffolk Superior Court, 1999).