After more than 15 years at Facey, Goss & McPhee, a local attorney took over as U.S. bankruptcy judge for Vermont on Monday.
Heather Zubke Cooper has a “broad and diverse background in bankruptcy law” with over 20 years of experience in “the finance and restructuring industry, representing individual and corporate debtors and creditors in restructurings and restructurings of loans, liquidations, foreclosures, litigation, foreclosures and receiverships,” according to a press release announcing Cooper’s judgeship.
In a statement, Chief Justice Debra Ann Livingston of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said court officials were “very pleased to welcome Heather Cooper to the bankruptcy bench.”
“We are confident she will serve with distinction and look forward to her contributions over the many years to come,” Livingston said.
Cooper said last week that it was “exciting and intimidating” to take on his new role.
“It’s going to be a very different experience than what I’m used to as a defender to become a more even-handed performer or decision-maker, if you will, but it’s exciting and it’s an honor and it’s a lesson in life. ‘humility. It’s a big responsibility,” she said.
She noted that the bankruptcy process is not one people would likely be looking for, but said it offers “real relief for people who need it”. Cooper said one of the fundamental principles of bankruptcy is to balance the rights of debtors and creditors and to give debtors a fresh start.
She said there were “people and stories behind every case”.
Now, Cooper will use the knowledge gained from working on bankruptcy cases in a new way.
“It’s a huge responsibility, but I think over the past 20 years I’ve gained enough experience that I can’t be completely terrified of the prospect,” she said.
Cooper and her husband, David Cooper, also a partner at Facey, Goss & McPhee, moved to the Rutland County area in 2003.
David Cooper is the former chairman of the board of the Rutland Redevelopment Authority.
When she first came to the area, she clerked for Judge Colleen Brown, the former federal bankruptcy judge she succeeded, before joining Facey, Goss & McPhee.
Jack Facey, director of Facey, Goss & McPhee, said there were mixed feelings about Cooper’s new position only because her colleagues at Rutland would miss her. He said when she takes the bench she will leave a hole in the business that will be “difficult to fill”.
“She was a great partner. She has handled a wide variety of files both in the field of bankruptcy and in that of human relations, she does a lot of HR work for small and medium businesses in Vermont. She has done general litigation as well as bankruptcies. So she really has a wealth of experience and I think she’ll be able to pull it all off in bankruptcy court,” he said.
Other former attorneys at the firm include Peter Hall, who became a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; Paul Reibert, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Vermont; and William Cohen, also a Justice of the Supreme Court of Vermont.
Facey said the firm’s attorneys are pleased to have sent attorneys to important court positions.
“It’s quite a tradition here and we’re very proud of it,” he said.
Cooper said she has served on the board of the Rutland Free Library and the board of the Rutland Regional Medical Center.
Cooper graduated magna cum laude from the South Texas College of Law and graduated from the University of Houston.
Although she said it was hard to say what excited her most about taking on a position that was new to her, she said she was looking forward to continuing the work she has done for 20 years, but “looking at it from a different angle”.
She said she hopes to bring fairness, respect and dignity for all parties to the post.
“I think with my experience and the fact that I’ve represented both debtors and creditors, I’ve represented different people with different roles and interests throughout this process, I think I I have the ability to look at issues presented to me from all perspectives because at one time or another I have been on one side or the other,” she said. .