Stern, Cooper May Not Represent Bulger After All

Published June 29, 2011

After appearing in court yesterday, many assumed that a pair of high-profile attorneys were poised to form the defense team for reputed mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger. But it’s still unclear if Max Stern and Howard Cooper will actually end up taking the case.

The Globe reported this morning that Stern and Cooper had agreed to take the case if Bulger was granted court-appointed counsel. Since then, however, veteran court observer David Frank reported in a blog post for Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly that the duo may actually not end up with the job.

The issue, it seems, may lie in which judge tries the case.

Prosecutors announced yesterday that they dropped a racketeering indictment against Bulger from 1994 in an effort to focus on the 19 murder charges it leveled against the accused mobster in 1999.

The 1999 murder indictments are currently assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns, according to Frank. Bulger has been appearing in front of U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf.

If Wolf doesn’t end up trying the case, Stern and Cooper may not end up being Bulger’s laywers, Frank wrote in the post:

In the event the Bulger case remains in Wolf’s session, Cooper and Stern will be appointed, the source tells Lawyers Weekly.

However, if it goes to Stearns and U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler, the source says it is unlikely the pair would be assigned to the case.

On Radio Boston yesterday, Frank said that Stern and Cooper were highly respected in the Boston legal community and that both of the layers had in the past been named “Lawyer of the Year” by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.