Royal Sendoff: Judge says a fond farewell after 36 years on the bench


By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

True to his soft-spoken style, U.S. District Judge Julian Abele Cook Jr. preferred to let others do the talking at his retirement reception on Friday, Sept. 19, at the federal courthouse in Detroit.

The event, which attracted scores of friends and admirers from all legal walks of life, served as a fitting tribute for a jurist who officially retired September 23 after 36 years on the federal bench.

“It has been a privilege to have known Judge Cook for so many years and he is most deserving of retirement after such an illustrious career,” said U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Damon J. Keith, Sixth Circuit. “I swore him into office when he took the federal bench (36 years ago), and he has helped set the standard for civility in the courtroom.”

And speaking of civility, the local chapter of the Federal Bar Association in 2008 established the Cook-Friedman Civility Award in honor of Cook and his colleague, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman. The award, presented at the FBA’s annual dinner, recognizes “the dedication to civility of two outstanding jurists: former Chief Judge Julian Abele Cook Jr., who, in 1998, constituted the first Civility Committee in the Eastern District of Michigan and fostered the implementation of the Court’s Civility Principles; and former Chief Judge Bernard A. Friedman who formed the court’s second Civility Committee in 2007, and fostered the implementation of the Eastern District’s Lawyer’s Commitment of Professional Civility.”

Friedman said his longtime friend and jurist is a “prince—the nicest, kindest person you’ll ever meet.

“He always speaks softly, but effectively, and even when he was chief judge, he always sought to build consensus when tough decisions needed to be made,” Friedman said of Cook. “In all the many years that I’ve known Judge Cook, I’ve never heard him raise his voice or lose his temper. He has a unique way of settling the waters.”

As an example, Cook was widely credited for helping resolve the scores of cases that arose out of the 1987 crash of Northwest Flight 255, in which 156 people were killed. Over the course of Cook’s career in private practice and on the bench, his legal skill also was displayed as a labor arbitrator; as chairman of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission 1968-71; as a special assistant attorney general for the State of Michigan 1968-78; as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Detroit School of Law 1971-74; and as the founder, former president and Master of the Bench of the Metropolitan Detroit Chapter of the American Inns of Court, and a member of the American Inns of Court. In addition, Cook has received honorary law degrees from Georgetown University, Wayne State University, University of Detroit-Mercy, and Michigan State University.

In short, he has been “a great judge and a tremendous credit to the legal profession,” according to Friedman.

“Judge Cook deserves all the accolades that have been said about him – and more.”