Steve Cooley

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Steve Cooley
Steve Cooley cropped flipped.jpg
41st District Attorney of Los Angeles County
In office
December 4, 2000[1] – December 3, 2012
Preceded byGil Garcetti
Succeeded byJackie Lacey
Personal details
Stephen Lawrence Cooley

(1947-05-01) May 1, 1947 (age 74)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Jana Cooley
(m. 1975)
Alma materCalifornia State University, Los Angeles
USC Gould School of Law
OccupationCriminal prosecutor Edit this at Wikidata

Stephen Lawrence Cooley (born May 1, 1947) is an American politician and prosecutor. He was the Los Angeles County District Attorney from 2000 to 2012. Cooley was re-elected in 2004 and again in 2008.

In 2010, Cooley won the Republican nomination for California Attorney General against John C. Eastman and Tom Harman in the June 8 primary election. During the general election campaign, Cooley said he would defend Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriages in California but was then being appealed in the federal courts. Cooley lost to the Democratic nominee, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, in the November 2 general election, a close race whose results were not finalized until November 24, 2010.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4] 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 challenged two-term incumbent District Attorney Gil Garcetti in the 2000 election. Garcetti and Cooley had a longstanding personal and professional rivalry, going back to at least 1996 when Cooley supported Garcetti's opponent for re-election, John Lynch. Garcetti defeated Lynch by a margin of approximately 5,000 votes out of slightly more than 2.2 million votes.[5] After the election, Garcetti demoted Cooley from a supervisory position to the county's obscure Welfare Fraud division. The move mirrored Garcetti's demotion as the chief deputy for the entire county in 1988 by then-incumbent Ira Reiner, which caused Garcetti to challenge his former mentor and defeat him in the 1992 general election.[6]

Cooley upset Garcetti in a competitive three-person primary, taking 39 percent of the vote to Garcetti's 37, forcing the two into a runoff in the November general election.[7] In the two-person runoff, Cooley defeated Garcetti 64 to 36 percent.[5]

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.[8] On April 9, 2003, he announced that he was closing the office's Environmental Crimes unit.[9] 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.[10]

As District Attorney, Cooley first made the headlines in the prosecution of Winona Ryder for shoplifting. Cooley filed four felony charges against her and assigned a team of eight prosecutors and paralegals in what was described by British newspaper The Guardian as a "show-trial."[11] Cooley was subsequently admonished by the California bar for his actions.

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 you are creating something to deal with them you have to think it through."[12] 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, Cooley publicly called members of the jury who acquitted Blake "incredibly stupid" and refused to apologize for the statement.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]

Third term[edit]

In June 2008, Cooley was elected to a third term, defeating his challengers, Steve Ipsen, President of the L.A. County Prosecutors Union, and 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 L.A. 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."[16]

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.[17]

One of Cooley's 2008 re-election opponents, Albert Robles, faced misdemeanor charges filed against him by the D.A.'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 affect the outcome of the June 2008 D.A. election.[18] Cooley denied those allegations.[18] In October 2008, a jury found Robles not guilty of all charges after deliberating for only 20 minutes,[18][19] and he was re-elected a month later to his seat on the board of the Water Replenishment District of Southern California.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22]

The L.A. 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 L.A. 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.[23] The Metropolitan News-Enterprise reported that Kerrigan exchanged emails with an ERCOM executive showing biased ex-parte communications and the removal of emails from materials provided in discovery.[24]

In 2009, Cooley gained coverage all over the country when, along with federal authorities, he requested that 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 pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor in Los Angeles. Swiss courts dismissed the extradition request in July 2010 and released Polanski.[25]

Cooley, J.D. Fredricks (1903–1915) and Buron Fitts (1928-1940) are the only Los Angeles County district attorneys to serve three complete terms. Cooley did not run for a fourth term in 2012.


In 2009, Cooley declared his opposition to medicinal marijuana dispensaries that sell over-the-counter in Los Angeles County.[26]

His administration 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 investigated state Senator Rod Wright[27] for living outside of his elected district, and Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt F. Dorn for a low-interest loan from the City of Inglewood. Dorn and Wright were both convicted.[28][29]

Career after public service[edit]

In 2012, Cooley founded Steve Cooley & Associates, a consulting firm whose website states that it "service(s) ... clients in the furtherance of their business ventures, advance(s) civil litigation and advise(s) on criminal matters". The distinction between civil and criminal litigation seems to suggest his company does not represent clients in criminal trials, despite the fact that Cooley's legal career has been in criminal prosecution.

Representation of David Daleiden and Center for Medical Progress[edit]

In 2017, Cooley began to defend David Daleiden, an anti-abortion activist and founder of the Center for Medical Progress, after Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, were indicted on 15 charges for surreptitiously recording several Planned Parenthood executives without their permission and claiming Planned Parenthood was illegally selling body parts from fetuses.[30]

As part of the National Abortion Federation's lawsuit against Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress, Federal Judge William Orrick III and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction forbidding Daleiden and CMP from publishing any more videos they had illegally obtained at private professional meetings.[31] However, new videos then appeared on the website of Daleiden's attorney, former Los Angeles County District Attorney, Steve Cooley. Judge Orrick ordered Daleiden, and his attorneys, Cooley and Brentford J. Ferreira to appear at a June 14 hearing to consider contempt sanctions.[32] On July 11, 2017, Judge Orrick found attorneys Cooley and Ferreira in contempt of court saying, "With respect to the criminal defense counsel, they do not get to decide whether they can violate the preliminary injunction".[33]

On July 17, Judge Orrick found Daleiden in contempt, as well as his lawyers and the Center for Medical Progress itself.[34] Judge Orrick ordered Mr.Daleiden to turn over video footage and other materials related to his 2016 preliminary injunction.[35][33]

On August 31, Judge Orrick found Daleiden and his attorneys, Steve Cooley and Brentford Ferreira, liable for the payment of $195,359 to compensate the National Abortion Federation for legal fees and increased security for "expenses incurred as a result of the violation of my Preliminary Injunction Order". Judge Orrick wrote that Mr. Daleiden's attorneys, Cooley and Ferreira, were included in the sanctions intended to ensure "current and future compliance" with his order.[36][37]


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, was elected unopposed as a judge on the Los Angeles County Superior Court and will begin her term in 2020.[38][39][40]

Election history[edit]

Los Angeles County District Attorney primary election, 2000[41]
Candidate Votes %
Steve Cooley 573,236 38.31
Gil Garcetti (incumbent) 558,066 37.3
Barry Groveman 364,902 24.39
Los Angeles County District Attorney election, 2000[42]
Candidate Votes %
Steve Cooley 1,448,418 63.77
Gil Garcetti (incumbent) 822,846 36.23
Los Angeles County District Attorney primary election, 2004[43]
Candidate Votes %
Steve Cooley (incumbent) 596,616 59.15
Nick Pacheco 151,360 15.01
Denise B. Moehlman 91,667 9.09
Tom Higgins 71,068 7.05
Roger Carrick 68,978 6.84
Anthony G. Patchett 28,921 2.87
Los Angeles County District Attorney primary election, 2008[44]
Candidate Votes %
Steve Cooley (incumbent) 400,155 64.86
Albert Robles 120,924 19.60
Steve Ipsen 95,842 15.54
California Attorney General Republican primary, 2010[45]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Steve Cooley 1,012,294 47.3
Republican John C. Eastman 737,025 34.5
Republican Tom Harman 391,618 18.2
California Attorney General election, 2010[46]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kamala Harris 4,443,070 46.1
Republican Steve Cooley 4,368,617 45.3
Green Peter Allen 258,880 2.7
Libertarian Timothy J. Hannan 246,584 2.6
American Independent Diane Beall Templin 169,994 1.7
Peace and Freedom Robert J. Evans 160,426 1.6
Total votes 9,647,571 100.00
Democratic hold


  1. ^ Mitchell Landsberg (December 4, 2000). "For New District Attorney, Reality Check Begins Today". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  2. ^ "Statement of Vote from the California Secretary of State" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-06-11.
  3. ^ "Notable Alumni". Archived from the original on 2016-12-05.
  4. ^ California, The State Bar of. "Attorney Search : The State Bar of California".
  5. ^ a b Mitchell Landsberg and Twila Decker (November 8, 2000). "Cooley Beats Garcetti by Wide Margin". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  6. ^ Sheryl Stolberg (September 18, 1992). "Reiner, in Surprise Move, Drops Out of Race for D.A." The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  7. ^ "D.A.'s Race Shapes Up as a Bitter Fight to the Finish". The Los Angeles Times. March 8, 2000. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  8. ^ "Cooley Presentation to the Board of Supervisors". Citizens' Economy & Efficiency Commission. June 7, 2001. Retrieved 2014-11-20.
  9. ^ Riccardi, Nicholas (2003-04-09). "D.A. Shuts Down Environmental Crimes Division". LA Times. Retrieved 2010-11-18 – via
  10. ^ "Steve Cooley. County's Second-Longest Serving D.A. Takes Pride in Record, Looks to Future," MetNews, January 14, 2010.
  11. ^ Campbell, Duncan (November 8, 2002). "Show trial". London: Guardian.
  12. ^ Ainsworth, Bill (February 22, 2008). "Law creates homeless parolees, report says". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 2010-11-18 – via
  13. ^ Christine Lagorio (2005-03-25). ""No Apology For Robert Blake Jury" CBS News". Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  14. ^ Spano, John (2007-12-07). "Lawsuit says Cooley reneged on promise; D.A. vowed to aid her bid for freedom, says the killer of a pimp". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-18 – via
  15. ^ Leonard, Jack (2008-05-31). "Sex offender deal an issue in campaign". Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  16. ^ Morrison, Patt (2012-07-02). "Cruise ship crimes: Why so hush-hush?". Los Angeles Times.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ a b c "Jury finds water board member Albert Robles not guilty". October 22, 2008. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  19. ^ "Water official going on trial over campaign fliers". January 17, 2008. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  20. ^ Mike Sprague (November 5, 2008). "Robles keeps water board seat". Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  21. ^ "Prosecutors' union sues L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley". October 30, 2009. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  22. ^ "Judge orders injunction against Steve Cooley". March 3, 2010. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  23. ^ Leonard, Jack (2010-11-12). "Cooley retaliated against prosecutors for their union work, hearing officer says". Los Angeles Times.
  24. ^ Grace, Roger (2012-04-27). "DA's Office: "Improper Conduct" led to ADDA Victory". Metropolitan News-Enterprise.
  25. ^ Chu, Henry; Mozingo, Joe (12 July 2010). "Swiss refuse extradition, free Polanski" – via LA Times.
  26. ^ "D.A. will prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries even if L.A. does not ban sales". 2009-11-17. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  27. ^ "State Sen. Rod Wright's district residency under investigation 09/21/2009". Daily Breeze. 2010-03-09. Archived from the original on 2012-03-07. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  28. ^ San Francisco Chronicle: Inglewood Mayor Charged in Home Loan Scandal (6/26/2008) Archived July 2, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Merl, Jean (January 28, 2014). "State Sen. Roderick Wright found guilty of perjury, voter fraud". Los Angeles Times.
  30. ^ Hamilton, Matt (March 28, 2017). "Two antiabortion activists behind undercover Planned Parenthood videos charged with 15 felonies".
  31. ^ "Anti-abortion group is sued over video releases - Reuters". July 31, 2015. Archived from the original on September 4, 2017.
  32. ^ "Judge to consider contempt against antiabortion group leader after release of Planned Parenthood videos". Associated Press. May 25, 2017.
  33. ^ a b "Judge: Anti-abortion leader's attorneys violated court order". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2017-07-12 – via
  34. ^ Bob Egelko (July 17, 2017). "Antiabortion activist, lawyers held in contempt over secret videos".
  35. ^ Richardson, Valerie (July 17, 2017). "David Daleiden in contempt of court for posting undercover videos online".
  36. ^ Federal Judge Sanctions Two California Lawyers in Abortion Videos Case, The National Law Journal, Cheryl Miller, September 1, 2017. Retrieved September 4, 2017.
  37. ^ Richardson, Valerie (August 31, 2017). "David Daleiden, attorneys fined $200,000 over undercover Planned Parenthood videos".
  38. ^ Kenneth Ofgang (January 14, 2010). "Steve Cooley. County's Second-Longest Serving D.A. Takes Pride in Record, Looks to Future".
  39. ^ "Woman Convicted Of Fatally Beating Elderly Man At Metro Station". 9 September 2015.
  40. ^, Maplight & LWVCEF, http://maplight org &. "Shannon Kathleen Cooley". Voter's Edge California Voter Guide. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  41. ^ "Official Election Returns March 7, 2000 Primary Election" (PDF). Los Angeles County Department of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  42. ^ "Official Election Returns November 7, 2000 General Election" (PDF). Los Angeles County Department of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  43. ^ "Official Election Returns March 2, 2004 Primary Election". Los Angeles County Department of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  44. ^ "Official Election Returns June 3, 2008 Primary Election". Los Angeles County Department of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  45. ^ "Statement of Vote Official Election Returns June 8, 2010 Primary Election" (PDF). California Secretary of State Elections Division. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  46. ^ "Statement of Vote November 2, 2010, General Election" (PDF). California Secretary of State Elections Division. Retrieved December 2, 2018.

External links[edit]

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