Robert E. Cooper, Jr.

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Robert E. Cooper, Jr.
Robert Cooper.jpg
Attorney General of Tennessee
Former officeholder
In office
November 1, 2006 - October 1, 2014
PredecessorPaul G. Summers
Base salary$173,352
Elections and appointments
AppointedNovember 1, 2006
Appointed byTennessee Supreme Court
Term limitsNone
High schoolBaylor School (1975)
Bachelor'sPrinceton University
J.D.Yale University
Place of birthChattanooga, TN
Office website
Robert E. Cooper, Jr. is the former Democratic Attorney General of Tennessee.[1] Tennessee is unique in that the attorney general is appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court, rather than by the governor. Cooper was first appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2006 for an eight-year term which expired in 2014.[2] Cooper served the entirety of his term and was replaced by Herbert H. Slatery on October 1, 2014.[3]

His father, Robert Cooper Sr., is a retired state Supreme Court Justice.[4]

As Attorney General, Cooper listed a number of major accomplishments, including forming a task force with other state agencies in 2008 that resulted in $148 million for the state in healthcare provider fraud cases, obtaining a default judgment of nearly $11 million against a group targeting Ft. Campbell soldiers with predatory sales and lending practices, leading state agencies to form a working group on foreclosures and filed suit against “foreclosure rescue” operations in Memphis, and targeting violations of construction storm water permits and worked to stop rock harvesting by private companies on state property.[5]

There were efforts by some legislators to change how the attorney general was selected during Cooper's tenure. Under the current system, they argued, there could be a conflict of interest when the attorney general argues cases before a court that named him to his position. This was seen as a reaction to Cooper's refusal to join with other state attorneys general in their legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, as well as his opinions in other cases. In 2013, state legislators introduced seven separate bills that would change either the duties of the attorney general or how the position is filled.[6]

Prior to his appointment, Cooper served as treasurer and legal counsel to Phil Bredesen (D) during his 2002 gubernatorial campaign and stayed on as legal counsel to the Bredesen administration.


Between graduating from college and entering law school, Cooper was employed by the North Carolina-based newspaper, The Raleigh Times, as a reporter. Shortly after obtaining his law degree, he worked as a clerk for United States District Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer in Washington, D.C. Cooper moved back to Tennessee and served as both a partner and an attorney for a Nashville law firm, Bass, Berry & Sims, PLC, specializing in corporate, constitutional, and regulatory litigation. From 2003 to 2006, he was Legal Counsel to Governor Phil Bredesen, providing legal advice and coordinating legal affairs for the governor, assisting in the development and implementation of legislation, advised on judicial appointments and reviewed requests for executive clemency and extradition.[1]


  • Graduated from Baylor School (1975)
  • Bachelor's degree, Princeton University
  • J.D. degree, Yale University[1]

Political career

Tennessee Attorney General (2006-2014)

Cooper was selected out of 14 potential candidates by the five justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court to assume the role of chief law enforcement officer and lawyer for the state and was sworn into office on November 1, 2006.[7] His term ended in October 2014, when he was replaced by Herbert H. Slatery.[2]


Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act

On March 11, 2013, Cooper, together with twelve other state attorneys general, sent a letter to Congress in support of the Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act, a bill which would ban for-profit colleges from using federal funds for marketing and recruiting techniques.[8] Sponsored by Senators Kay R. Hagan (D-NC) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), who chairs the chamber's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, the law aims to “ensure that scarce federal education dollars will be used to serve and educate students rather than to finance advertising campaigns, recruitment operations, and aggressive marketing.”[9] Consumer protection is one of the key duties assigned to the attorney general in each state.

According to the law's text, student enrollment at for-profit degree-issuing institutions such as the University of Phoenix more than doubled between 1998-2008, during which time the federal government--through student financial assistance programs--provided 86 percent of revenues to 15 reviewed publicly traded companies operating these for-profit colleges. A separate analysis of 15 such companies concluded that, on average, 28 percent of all expenditures were on advertising, marketing, and recruiting. Critics, including the attorneys general responsible for the letter advocating the bill's passage, contend that these expenditures are used to deceive consumers about program costs, graduation rates, or their employment potential beyond graduation. The bill seeks to restrict spending of this nature by higher education institutions or other postsecondary educational institution by prohibiting use of federal loans or grants in specific areas, and requiring that all such institutions whose revenues can be traced to federal educational assistance funds "report annually to the Secretary and to Congress the institution's expenditures on advertising, marketing, and recruiting."[8]

In the letter, the attorneys general urged, “Federal taxpayers should not be asked to foot the bill for aggressive recruiting and deceptive sales tactics of colleges that have placed profits ahead of ensuring student success.”[10] There are an estimated 3,000 for-profit schools nationwide, though neither the letter nor the bill cited the name of a specific institution.[11]



Cooper was appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2006 to serve an eight-year term. Chief Justice William M. Barker stated, “We are confident that Bob Cooper will be an outstanding attorney general. He has the legal and administrative experience and abilities needed to serve with excellence as the state’s chief legal officer.”[7]

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Contact information


Office of the Attorney General and Reporter
P.O. Box 20207
Nashville, TN 37202-0207

Tel: (615) 741-3491
Fax: (615) 741-2009

See also

External links

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Political offices
Preceded by
Paul Summers
Attorney General of Tennessee
2006 - 2014
Succeeded by
Herbert H. Slatery