Steve Cooley

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Steve Cooley
Steve Cooley cropped flipped.jpg
Steve Cooley on August 16, 2010
41st Los Angeles County District Attorney
In office
November 7, 2000 – December 3, 2012
Preceded by Gil Garcetti
Succeeded by Jackie Lacey
Personal details
Born Stephen Lawrence Cooley
(1947-05-01) May 1, 1947 (age 69)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Jana Cooley
Children 2
Alma mater California State University, Los Angeles
USC Gould School of Law
Occupation Criminal prosecutor
Religion Roman Catholicism
Website Official website

Stephen Lawrence "Steve" Cooley (born May 1, 1947) is an American politician. He has been a prosecutor for 27 years, and was Los Angeles County District Attorney from 2000 to 2012, in which he defeated incumbent two-term District Attorney Gil Garcetti, a Democrat. Cooley was re-elected in 2004 and 2008.

Cooley won the Republican nomination for Attorney General against John C. Eastman and Tom Harman in the June 8 primary election. Cooley ran against and lost to the Democratic nominee, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, in the November 2 general election. On November 24, 2010, Cooley, who during his campaign said he would have defended Prop 8 in court, lost the election to Harris.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

The second of five children, Cooley was born at St. Vincent's Hospital (now St. Vincent's Medical Center) in Los Angeles. His father was an FBI agent and his mother a homemaker. Cooley attended Pater Noster High School in Los Angeles. At California State University, Los Angeles, Cooley served two terms as Student Body President and was selected for membership in Phi Kappa Phi. He was also a member of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity.[2]

In 1970, he was commencement speaker for his graduating class. He entered the University of Southern California Law School and received his Juris Doctor in 1973.[3] That same year he joined the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. Cooley served over seven years as a reserve police officer with LAPD and 27 years as prosecutor.[citation needed]

Los Angeles County District Attorney[edit]

Cooley was elected to his first term as District Attorney in 2000. The election campaign featured a record-breaking 15 debates, and Cooley captured nearly two-thirds of the vote. He was the first attorney with trial experience to be elected District Attorney since 1984. At his 2000 swearing-in ceremony, he charged his over 1,000 prosecutors – including more than 300 District Attorney investigators and 600 clerical, technical and support staff – to "show no fear in pursuing the criminal element, but also be fearless in the pursuit of justice".

First Term[edit]

Cooley instituted a reorganization of the District Attorney's Office.[4] On April 9, 2003, he announced that he was closing the office's Environmental Crimes unit.[5] The closure left only one attorney to cover all environmental crimes in Los Angeles County. The reorganization also included the creation of the Justice System Integrity Division, Forensic Science Section and Victim Impact Program. Cooley changed the office's policy on California's Three Strikes Law, with the stated purpose to assure proportionality in sentencing and even-handed application countywide. Throughout his time as District Attorney, Cooley continued his efforts against the Three Strikes Law in favor of proportionality, including supporting ballot measures that would have altered Three Strikes. The blowback from those efforts ultimately led Cooley to leave the California District Attorneys Association in 2006.[6]

As District Attorney, Cooley first made the headlines in the prosecution of Winona Ryder for shoplifting. Cooley filed four felony charges against her and led of team of eight prosecutors in what was described by British newspaper The Guardian as a "show-trial."[7]

Second Term[edit]

In 2006, Cooley was the most notable law enforcement official to publicly oppose Proposition 83, better known as "Jessica's Law," a measure named after Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old who was raped and murdered by a paroled sex offender in Florida. Cooley criticized Jessica's Law as being "not carefully crafted," adding that "Not liking sex offenders is a good thing and a popular thing, but when are creating something to deal with them you have to think it through."[8] California voters passed Proposition 83 with 70.5% of the vote.

During his second term, Cooley's office was unsuccessful in the prosecution of Robert Blake for the murder of his wife Bonnie Lee Bakley. When interviewed about Robert Blake's acquittal, Steve Cooley publicly called members of the jury who acquitted Blake "incredibly stupid" and refused to apologize for the statement.[9]

According to The Los Angeles Times, advocates for battered women criticized Cooley’s handling of Deborah Peagler’s case and others like it. In eight out of eight cases, he opposed the use of a California law that allows battered women in prison to be given a new hearing if evidence of domestic violence was omitted during the original proceedings. Cooley had initially supported Peagler's release from prison, but then withdrew his written offer to reduce the battered woman's prison sentence.[10]

Just a week before the 2008 election that he ultimately won, Cooley was attacked for violating Jessica's Law and making a deal with defense attorneys and judges to postpone seeking tougher sanctions against a group of serious sex offenders that had completed their prison terms. Rather than seeking indefinite hospitalization for some offenders, as allowed under a November 2006 ballot measure, Cooley only sought two years.[11]

Third Term[edit]

In June 2008 Cooley was elected to a third term, defeating his challengers, nonpartisan candidate Steve Ipsen, President of the LA County Prosecutors Union, and Democratic candidate Albert Robles, an attorney and professor. Cooley was heavily criticized for his opposition of Proposition 9 (Marsy's Law: The Victim's Bill of Rights). Cooley told the LA Times, just before voters went to the polls over "Marsy’s Law" that the measure, which ended up passing, would sweep aside "decades of legislative scrutiny and judicial review." It plays to voters' feelings, selling itself with a female victim's name, "like a cherry on the ice cream." [12]

The L.A. Times editorial desk wrote on April 28, 2008 of Cooley, "It is noteworthy that he criticized predecessor Gil Garcetti in 2000 for seeking a third term and promised that he would serve only two." But in 2008, he sought a third term, despite his promise.[13]

Cooley's June 2008 re-election opponent, Albert Robles, faced misdemeanor charges filed against him by the DA's office in November 2007. Robles was charged with printing a pair of political mailers without a return address and expending more than $100 cash in a political campaign. Robles accused Cooley of direct involvement in the charges brought against him because of a personal vendetta and to effect outcome of the 2008 DA's election held June 2008.[14] Cooley denied those allegations.[14]

Robles lost to Cooley in June 2008, but in October 2008 a jury found Robles not guilty of all charges after deliberating for only twenty (20) minutes[14][15] and was re-elected in November 2008 to his seat on the Water Replenishment District of Southern California board.[16]

Cooley was sued in federal court by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. The suit was filed for allegedly violating the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.[17] Judge Otis D. Wright II described District Attorney Cooley's actions as "striking and rampant". Judge Wright issued a preliminary injunction ordering Cooley to desist from behavior seen as discriminating and/or retaliating against employees on the basis of union membership.[18]

The Los Angeles Times reported that "Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley waged an illegal anti-union campaign in which he and his staff harassed and unfairly disciplined union officers." Thomas S. Kerrigan, an LA County hearing officer for the Employee Relations Commission heard months of testimony and found that veteran deputy district attorneys and prosecutors under Cooley, with outstanding evaluations, were retaliated against. Kerrigan claimed that Cooley had conducted a "deliberate and thinly disguised campaign" aimed at destroying the union.[19] The Metropolitan News-Enterprise recently reported that Kerrigan exchanged emails with an ERCOM executive showing biased ex-parte communications and the removal of emails from materials provided in discovery.[20]

In 2009, Cooley gained coverage all over the country, after along with US government authorities, requesting the Swiss government arrest and extradite movie director Roman Polanski, who was traveling to the Zurich Film Festival. Polanski had been a fugitive for 31 years after originally fleeing the United States in February 1978 after pleasing guilty to unlawful sex with a minor. Swiss courts dismissed the extradition request in July 2010 and released Polanski.[21]

Cooley, J.D. Fredricks (1903–1915) and Buron Fitts (1928-1940) are only Los Angeles County District Attorneys to serve three complete terms. Cooley did not run for a fourth term.


Steve Cooley for Attorney General 2010
Campaign California Attorney General
Candidate Steve Cooley
Affiliation Republican Party
Status Conceded defeat
Headquarters Los Angeles, California, U.S.

In 2009 Cooley declared his opposition to medicinal marijuana dispensaries that sell over-the-counter in Los Angeles County.[22]

His administration has aggressively prosecuted political corruption in the City of Los Angeles as well as such communities as Bell, Vernon, Beverly Hills, Compton, Inglewood, South Gate, Temple, and Irwindale among many others. Cooley has investigated state Senator Rod Wright[23] for living outside of his elected district, and Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt F. Dorn for a low-interest loan from the City of Inglewood. Dorn was convicted and Wright was indicted but has not yet been tried.[24]


Cooley has been married to Jana, a former court reporter, since 1975. Their son, Michael, is a producer for Fox Sports and is married to a deputy district attorney. Their daughter Shannon is a deputy district attorney in Cooley's office.[25]

Election history[edit]

2000 primary election, Los Angeles County District Attorney
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Steve Cooley 573,236 38.31
Democratic Gil Garcetti 558,066 37.30
Democratic Barry Groveman 364,902 24.39
2000 general election, Los Angeles County District Attorney
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Steve Cooley 1,448,418 63.77
Democratic Gil Garcetti 822,846 36.23

2004 primary election, Los Angeles County District Attorney
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Steve Cooley 596,616 59.15
Democratic Nick Pacheco 151,360 15.01
Non-partisan Denise B. Moehlman 91,667 9.09
Non-partisan Tom Higgins 71,068 7.05
Non-partisan Roger Carrick 68,978 6.84
Non-partisan Anthony G. Patchett 28,921 2.87

2008 primary election, Los Angeles County District Attorney
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Steve Cooley 400,155 64.86
Democratic Albert Robles 120,924 19.60
Nonpartisan Steve Ipsen 95,842 15.54

California Republican Attorney General primary, 2010
Candidate Votes Percentage
Steve Cooley 1,012,294 47.3%
John C. Eastman 737,025 34.5%
Tom Harman 391,618 18.2%
Total votes 2,140,937 100.00%
Voter turnout 40.1%
2010 general election, California Attorney General
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Kamala Harris 4,442,781 46.1
Republican Steve Cooley 4,368,624 45.3


  1. ^ "Statement of Vote from the California Secretary of State" (PDF). 
  2. ^ "Notable Alumni". 
  3. ^ California State Bar Member Records
  4. ^ "Cooley Presentation to the Board of Supervisors". Citizens' Economy & Efficiency Commission. June 7, 2001. Retrieved 2014-11-20. 
  5. ^ Riccardi, Nicholas (2003-04-09). "LA Times 4/09/2003 "D.A. Shuts Down Environmental Crimes Division"". Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  6. ^ "Steve Cooley. County’s Second-Longest Serving D.A. Takes Pride in Record, Looks to Future," MetNews, January 14, 2010.
  7. ^ Campbell, Duncan (November 8, 2002). "Show trial". London: Guardian. 
  8. ^ Ainsworth, Bill (2008-02-22). "San Diego Union Tribune, February 22, 2008". Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  9. ^ Font size Print E-mail Share By Christine Lagorio (2005-03-25). ""No Apology For Robert Blake Jury" CBS News". Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  10. ^ Spano, John (2007-12-07). "The Los Angeles Times (12/07/2007) "Lawsuit says Cooley reneged on promise; D.A. vowed to aid her bid for freedom, says the killer of a pimp."". Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  11. ^ Leonard, Jack (2008-05-31). "The Los Angeles Times 05/31/2008 "Sex offender deal an issue in campaign"". Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  12. ^ Morrison, Patt (2012-07-02). "Cruise ship crimes: Why so hush-hush?". Los Angeles Times. 
  13. ^ LA Times Editorial Department (April 28, 2008). "For District Attorney and Board of Supervisors The Times Reluctantly Endorses". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2008-05-29. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  14. ^ a b c "The Whitter Daily News (10/22/08) "Jury Finds Albert Robles Not Guilty"". 2010-03-09. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  15. ^ "The Whitter Daily News (10/10/08) "Trial for Water Board President Goes Forward"". 2010-03-09. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  16. ^ "The Whitter Daily News (11/05/08) "Robles Keeps Water Board Seat"". 2010-03-09. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Leonard, Jack (2010-11-12). "Cooley retaliated against prosecutors for their union work, hearing officer says". Los Angeles Times. 
  20. ^ Grace, Roger (2012-04-27). "DA's Office: "Improper Conduct" led to ADDA Victory". Metropolitan News-Enterprise. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ "D.A. will prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries even if L.A. does not ban sales". 2009-11-17. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  23. ^ "State Sen. Rod Wright's district residency under investigation 09/21/2009". Daily Breeze. 2010-03-09. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  24. ^ San Francisco Chronicle: Inglewood Mayor Charged in Home Loan Scandal (6/26/2008) Archived July 2, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  25. ^ [1]

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Gil Garcetti
Los Angeles County District Attorney
2000 – 2012
Succeeded by
Jackie Lacey