New judge picks up the gavel

Sara Van Cleve
Posted

After a career of 28 years as an attorney, David Cooke is seeing a dream become reality.

“Since I’ve been an attorney, as long as I have done litigation, I’ve always wanted to become a judge. I think, probably, most trial lawyers will tell you that,” Cooke said.

Cooke was sworn in as Arvada’s new full-time municipal court judge during the June 17 City Council meeting and began serving on July 1. Cooke succeeds Judge George Boyle, Arvada’s first full-time judge, who served 35 years and retired on June 30.

Cooke met Boyle before he was selected, and said Boyle had one thing to tell him about the judgeship: “This is the best job there is.”

“What a phenomenal endorsement,” Cooke said. “When I talked to him, that sealed it. You have a guy that is leaving who could say anything he wants, and all he said was this is the best thing there is, so that got me really excited. I like the fact that it’s in my own community too.”

Cooke; his wife, Kate, and their two daughters have lived in Arvada for about four years. Before moving to Arvada, they lived in Edgewater, where Cooke served on City Council for five years, three of those years as council president.

Cooke has worked as an attorney for about 28 years and is licensed to practice in New York, Massachusetts and Colorado.

For about 25 years he practiced litigation, working about eight years in the private sector and 17 with governmental agencies.

He has worked as a special litigation prosecutor for the Colorado Attorney General and most recently worked in the Denver’s City Attorney’s Office, where he supervised civil-rights litigation and defended officers in excessive-force cases.

“My goal is to seriously learn how to do this job with excellence,” Cooke said. “The goal for the court is to treat people fairly, be consistent and try to be impactful. Hopefully when cases are done, you brought about the change that needs to happen. People here know their stuff inside and out, and I’m excited to work with a team that is excited about this job.”

Cooke expects to hear about 12,000 cases annually.

In addition to serving as presiding judge, Cooke will also serve as the court’s department head, leading a staff of nine, and be involved in city leadership.

“What a great team to become a part of, where they really just get the value of what they do, the fact that they can make change and can improve the process,” he said. “It’s a really positive group.”

Though there is a learning curve in transitioning from attorney to judge, Cooke said, his goal is to learn as fast as he can how to do his job as well as he can.

“My goal, as far as the public is concerned — and the city attorney and prosecutors are concerned — is to have this appear to be a smooth handoff,” Cooke said. “No doubt certain things will be challenges, but I think it’s our obligation to the public for this to go as smoothly as it possibly can.”

Cooke also served on the Arvada Council for the Arts and Humanities for about three years and was elected chair of the council last year. He also served as the president of the Board of Directors for the Mile High Community Band.

Cooke has also played electric guitar in the jazz big band and jazz combo band with Mile High Community Band for about five years. He even built his own guitar from scratch.

Cooke said he hopes to find other ways to get involved in the community, but will focus on his new job for the present.

“I pinch myself every day,” he said. “I’m unbelievably excited to have this opportunity. I really am. I still can’t believe it. I know some of the people who applied for this — super-talented, very qualified people, just excellent. This city had such great options. I am just so flattered that City Council gave me the vote of confidence.”

Boyle and three other part-time judges will serve as relief judges. Among the four judges, there is a combined 130 years of experience, Cooke said.