Chief Judge Lawrence H. Cooke

Article excerpt

Thank you all, and thank you especially, Judge Rosenblatt, for that wonderful introduction to the program and to each of the members of the Court. You can tell just from listening to those brief remarks what fun it was to serve alongside Judge Rosenblatt, can't you? I want to assure you--and I think Judge Jones would be the first to say this, Al--that no one has replaced you on the Court of Appeals, great as Judge Jones is. Thank you, Albany Law Review, for this great occasion, and Vin Bonventre, for your kind words and a very accurate portrait of our beloved Court, might I say.

The only ground rules, as you've heard, for selecting our subjects today, were no living judges and no Cardozo (about whom mountains have been written).

There have been 108 Court of Appeals Judges, from which number I subtract the eight former "livings" and seven incumbents. That left 93 delightful subjects from which to choose. And I can tell you that I have many, many times lost myself in the wonderful biography book. What a perspective on history; what a perspective on humanity; what a perspective on jurisprudence, people of every imaginable background!

I am convinced that there is absolutely nothing about us that you cannot find in this book. Most recently, I did a quick survey of my predecessors' post-bench lives: Guess why? Again, an incredible range, from Governor (Nathan Louis Miller), cabinet member (Charles James Folger) and presidential candidate (Alton Brooks Parker); to law school dean (Francis Miles Finch) and manager of a state lunatic asylum (Alexander Smith Johnson)--I'll let that option go--and student of French (Hiram Denio); to pitching hay and tending the family farm (Addison Gardiner).

But, for me, the choice of Chief Judge Lawrence H. Cooke an Albany Law School alum, I might add--the choice was a no-brainer. It was an easy one for so many reasons--I'll mention just a few--and I'm so pleased to be standing here facing his children, his grandson, and especially you, Teddy, because you didn't have the chance to know your great-grandpa, as I did. So I'm going to tell you a few things about him.

The first reason I picked Chief Judge Cooke, of course, is immensely and intensely personal. We were both born and raised in the Village of Monticello, New York. (1) At the time of my birth, his father was "Judge Cooke" (a triple-hat county court, children's court and surrogate judge). By the time of my graduation from our mutual alma mater, the Monticello High School, Lawrence Cooke was the triple-hat judge, and he continued on the bench until his retirement 31 years later.

Among the many adjustments I had to make coming directly from a private commercial litigation practice in New York City to the Court of Appeals, I think the hardest was calling him "Larry." While it was commonplace throughout Monticello, indeed throughout Sullivan County, if not the entire country, to address him as "Larry"--the Town Justice by contrast, was known as "Judge"--by the time I left Monticello for college, I had not yet fallen heir to that tradition. For months after my arrival on the Court of Appeals, I didn't address him by name at all. I simply cleared my throat when I needed to get his attention.

To say merely that Chief Judge Cooke was "beloved" by our community--the people who knew him absolutely the best--is a vast understatement. And for him, that sentiment, that love, was never a matter of entitlement. He worked hard to earn the respect and affection of the community by the quality of his life among the people living in the same house for more than 60 years; a committed volunteer firefighter; a parade leader; a patron of the Miss Monticello Diner at dawn; a modest man who always "took the high road" (oft-repeated advice received from his own father); a model of fairness, decency and humanity all the years I knew him, and that was a lot of years. I think the essay by Joyce and Lou Adolfson beautifully captures the person, including his achievements and reforms as Chief Judge. …