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Robert E. Cooper Jr. takes office
as 26th Tennessee attorney general

(From Administrative Office of the Courts releases
Photos by TBA staff member Jenny Jones)

Robert E. Cooper Jr. was sworn in Wednesday as Tennessee's 26th attorney general. The oath of office was administered by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice William M. Barker as Cooper's father, former Chief Justice Robert E. Cooper, held the Bible.

The new attorney general's father served on the Supreme Court from 1974 until his retirement in 1990. Gov. Phil Bredesen and House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh spoke at the ceremony in the Old Supreme Court Chambers at the state Capitol. The ceremony was attended by an overflow crowd, including Justice Cornelia Clark, retired Justices Frank F. Drowota and Adolpho A. Birch, Jr., and three former attorneys general. The Supreme Court appointed Cooper to an eight-year term as the state's chief legal officer. 

Cooper, 49, of Nashville, succeeds former Attorney General Paul Summers, who did not seek reappointment to the position.

“We are confident that Bob Cooper will be an outstanding attorney general,” Barker said. “He has the legal and administrative experience and abilities needed to serve with excellence as the state’s chief legal officer.”

Cooper described the 13 other applicants as “an excellent field of candidates” and said he was honored to have been chosen by the Supreme Court.

“The Office of Attorney General is in strong shape and I am excited about the prospect of leading this group of outstanding lawyers,” Cooper said. “General Summers has been a vigorous advocate for the rights of citizens, consumers and victims of crime and I look forward to continuing that work as well as meeting new challenges that lie ahead for state government.”

Before joining the governor’s office, Cooper was a partner at Bass, Berry & Sims, PLC, where he specialized in corporate, constitutional and regulatory litigation. Prior to spending 19 years in the private practice of law, he served as clerk for U.S. District Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer in Washington, D.C.

An expert in campaign finance and election law, Cooper has served as an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University.

He is a Chattanooga native and graduated as valedictorian from Baylor School in his home town. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, where he graduated Magna cum laude, and a law degree from Yale University. Cooper served as chairman of the Daily Princetonian and was managing editor of the Yale Law Journal.

The Supreme Court conducted an open selection process to find Summers’ replacement and encouraged interested attorneys from across the state to apply. Under the Tennessee Constitution, the attorney general, who earns $150,000, is appointed by the Supreme Court.

Duties of Tennessee’s chief legal officer include representing the state in civil litigation and prosecuting criminal cases in the appellate courts.  The attorney general also provides legal advice to the governor, state agencies and the Tennessee General Assembly.
Scenes from the ceremonies

Chief Justice William M. Barker congratulates new Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. after administering the oath of office. Joining in the ceremony is Cooper's father, former Chief Justice Robert E. Cooper.

Attorney General Robert Cooper accepts a congratulatory gift from Tennessee Bar Association President Larry Wilks.

Gov. Phil Bredesen addresses the gathering before the oath is administered.

Cooper visits with Wilks and State Rep. Kim McMillan before the ceremonies.

House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh addresses the gathering.

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