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David Cooper, Associate Justice, Territorial Supreme Court, 1849-1853

David Cooper

Portrait of David Cooper


David Cooper was one of the first three justices to serve on the Minnesota Territorial Supreme Court.




Born July 22, 1821, at "Brooks Reserve" in Frederick County, Maryland, David Cooper, moved to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1831. He attended Pennsylvania College and later studied law in the office of his brother, the would-be Senator, James Cooper. David Cooper was admitted to practice in 1845, and practiced for three years until he was appointed one of the first Associate Justices of the Minnesota Territorial Supreme Court. Cooper served on the court from July 14, 1850 to April 7, 1853, and was not without controversy. Known for his fine legal mind, Cooper had a reputation of becoming irate with anyone, including judges, who dared to disagree with him. Despite this behavior, Justice Flandrau, one of his fellow justices, described Cooper as having a “genial nature.” Justice Cooper’s service on the Court ended in 1853, when the newly elected President Franklin Pierce replaced all of the Court's members with appointments of his own. Cooper remained in Minnesota for another decade practicing law in St. Paul, but then moved to the Territory of Nevada. Few details are known of his life after leaving Minnesota, except that he died while a patient in a Salt Lake City inebriate asylum.

You may read more about the life of, and controversy surrounding, Justice David Cooper in the book, Testimony: Remembering Minnesota’s Supreme Court Justices, which is the source of this brief biography.


Portrait of David Cooper courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society, por 21741 r 1