Court suspends former rep's law license

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Missouri Supreme Court suspended former state Rep. Nathan Cooper's law license Friday, citing his guilty plea to two federal felonies.

The order came just hours after the court accepted Cooper's late response to its Wednesday demand that he show cause why his license should not be suspended. In his response, Cooper told the court he intended to voluntarily surrender his license Sept. 1.

Cooper, a Republican, served in the legislature from January 2005 until Tuesday. He pleaded guilty Aug. 9 to two federal counts of immigration fraud and agreed at the time to forfeit $50,000 in legal fees received from clients who benefited from his crimes. Cooper obtained seasonal work visas for foreign truck drivers employed in year-round jobs, purchased visas intended for hospitality workers for the drivers' use and set up shell companies to hide the transactions.

The suspension order issued today is in effect until the final disposition of his court case. Judge Stephen Limbaugh of Cape Girardeau did not participate in either of the court's actions and did not give a reason for his withdrawal.

Cooper is scheduled to be in St. Louis for sentencing Oct. 19. He faces a maximum of 15 years in federal prison, but prosecutors have said that the magnitude of his crimes and the cooperation he has given in the course of the investigation point to a sentence of 30 to 37 months.

Under state court rules, Cooper must notify all his clients that he is no longer able to practice law, inform the clients of any pressing legal deadlines needing immediate attention and notify opposing counsel in pending cases that he must step aside.

Cooper could not be reached Friday for comment.

He also has 30 days to surrender the physical copy of his law license to the clerk of the Missouri Supreme Court.

In his reply to the court this morning, Cooper said he received the notice to respond late, and he was out of town on Thursday.

In addition, Cooper said he "will respectfully submit to whatever action this court deems fit."

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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