David Cooper (jurist)

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David Cooper

David Cooper (1821- c. 1873) was an American lawyer and jurist. He served from 1850-53 as an Associate Justice of the Minnesota (Territory) Supreme Court.


Cooper was born on July 22, 1821, in Frederick County, Maryland. In 1831, he moved to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he attended Pennsylvania College. He later studied law in the office of his brother. He was admitted to practice law in 1845 and practiced in Louistown, Pennsylvania. In 1848, he canvassed a portion of Pennsylvania for the Whig Party.

As a result of this service to the Whig Party, Cooper was appointed by President Zachary Taylor as an Associate Justice of the Minnesota Territorial Supreme Court on March 15, 1849. He was confirmed by the Senate on March 19, 1849. He held the office from July 14, 1850, to April 7, 1853.[1]

Cooper later practiced law in St. Paul, Minnesota, until 1864, when he moved to Nevada Territory, where he made mining titles the specialty of his law practice. He later moved to Utah and died a patient in a Salt Lake City inebriate asylum at an age of about 52.

Criticism by Legal Profession and Newspapers[edit]

Along with Chief Justice Aaron Goodrich, Cooper was frequently criticized by members of the legal profession as unfit and incompetent. However, no charge of corruption or malfeasance was ever made against either of them. After an unfavorable editorial regarding Justice Cooper appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer newspaper in 1851, Justice Cooper's brother, Joseph Cooper, assaulted the newspaper editor, James M. Goodhue, with a knife and inflicted two wounds. Goodhue responded by firing a pistol at Cooper, who received a shot in his groin. Joseph Cooper died approximately two months later, and it was said that the pistol wound had hastened his death.