September 27, 2013
Our firm is very saddened to announce the passing of its founding member and leader, Austin Cooper, Q.C. Austin was a passionate and celebrated lawyer, who was justly regarded as one of the finest criminal lawyers this country has ever seen and “The Dean of the Criminal Bar”. He was well known for his integrity, impeccable judgment and civility. He brought tremendous dignity to the criminal bar.
Austin practiced for 60 years, first as a sole practitioner, and ultimately with the firm of Cooper, Sandler, Shime and Bergman LLP. His contributions to the Canadian public and the legal community were widely recognized, most recently when the Law Society of Upper Canada bestowed an honourary Doctorate of Laws upon him. He was also the recipient of the G. Arthur Martin Medal, the Criminal Lawyers Association’s highest honour, the Advocates’ Society Medal for his mastery of the art of advocacy and countless other awards. Austin was a strong believer in the right of all people, regardless of their background or income, to have a zealous defence to criminal allegations. He defended many indigent people pro bono and strongly advocated for the introduction of legal aid in Ontario. He also defended the first murder case under the new Legal Aid Plan.
But Austin was much more than a brilliant lawyer. He was a wonderful person, who remained the paragon of humility and modesty despite his remarkable accomplishments. He was remarkably kind and gentle, always offering his advice, encouragement and a kind word. Over the course of his lengthy career, he shared his knowledge and acted as a mentor for innumerable criminal lawyers, many of whom have become leaders of the Bar themselves thanks to his mentorship. He taught all of us how to be zealous advocates for our clients while maintaining the highest standards of ethics and professionalism. His example serves as an inspiration to us all. He will be sorely missed every day.
Austin was a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School, and was called to the Bar of the Province of Ontario in 1953 and practiced as defence counsel in the field of criminal law since that date. He was appointed Q.C. in 1964. He was certified by the Law Society as a Specialist in Criminal Law and had extensive experience as both a trial and appellate counsel. From 1997 to 1998, he served as Commission Counsel to the Commission on Proceedings involving Guy Paul Morin. He was a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and the recipient of a number of professional awards: the Douglas Laidlaw Medal for Excellence in Advocacy, the G. Arthur Martin Award from the Criminal Lawyers’ Association of Ontario for his contribution to criminal justice (2000), the J.J. Robinette Medal for Excellence from the Osgoode Hall Law School Alumni Association (2003) and the Award of Excellence from the Metropolitan Toronto Lawyers’ Association for significant contribution to the growth of jurisprudence and the rule of law (2003). In 2005, he was awarded the Advocates’ Society Medal for his mastery of the art of advocacy. In 2013, he was awarded an Honourary Doctorate from the Law Society of Upper Canada.
Austin wrote and lectured widely at law schools and legal conferences in the areas of advocacy, evidence and substantive criminal law. He was a founding member of the Advocates Society in Ontario and served as a Director of that Society. He was a member in good standing of the Canadian Bar Association and was, for several years, the Chair of the Civil Liberties Subsection. Austin was elected by his peers as a Bencher of the Law Society of Ontario (the governing body of the legal profession in Ontario), and after serving from 1971 to 1987, was appointed as ex-officio Bencher for his lifetime. For 16 years, he was a director of the Tarragon Theatre, Toronto, and was a member of the Board of Governors of Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto.
Canadian Lawyer Magazine, A Deadly Strike in Badger
Canadian Lawyer Magazine, A Deadly Strike in Badger, Part II
Canadian Lawyer Magazine, Radical on Rye
LL.B University of Toronto, 1978
Law Society of Ontario
Criminal Law Specialists Committee
Criminal Lawyers Association