In Memoriam Robert Hooker Natman Schaye, April 9, 2008 by lmv20934

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									In Memoriam: Robert Hooker
Natman Schaye, April 9, 2008

        NACDL lost one of its champions, Robert Hooker, on April 1, 2008, due to a
reckless driver. Bob’s long and distinguished career as a criminal defense lawyer in
Tucson began with his graduation from the University of Arizona College of Law in
1972. After eight years in practice, he was appointed to the Pima County Superior Court
bench. Bob realized that his heart belonged to the defense of the accused, so he returned
to private practice in 1983.
       In 2005, Bob saw an opportunity to serve that convinced him to leave behind his
successful practice for public service. The Pima County Public Defender’s office was
very much in need of strong leadership. Bob, at the age of 62, had never worked as a
public defender, but he jumped at the opportunity to take the reins of the office. He
brought great energy and new ideas to an office that continually improved over the past
three years.
        Bob joined NACDL shortly after his return to private practice in 1983. He was
also a member of the state affiliate, the Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, since it
was founded in 1986. Bob served on NACDL’s Board of Directors for the past six years.
 He never hesitated to support his brothers and sisters in the defense bar.
        While Bob was unquestionably a formidable and dedicated criminal defense
lawyer, he was much more than that to those of us who were lucky enough to count him
among our friends. We always knew that Bob would be there to back us up, to lend a
hand whenever needed. His wit and humor, dry as the desert sand, brightened even the
darkest days. It was no surprise that more than 2,000 people attended the celebration of
Bob’s life this past Monday.
        Bob and his wife, Sharon, have been together since their college days at Chico
State University in California. No one who saw them together ever doubted that they
were meant for each other. Sharon’s strength in the wake of Bob’s tragic death has been
an inspiration to friends, family and the entire criminal defense community.
        Some have said that Bob’s dogged determination on behalf of his clients
demonstrated his belief in the criminal justice system. That statement misses the mark.
Bob Hooker did not believe in the system. He believed that the system must change. It
must change so that everyone accused of crime – regardless of income level, race,
ethnicity or accusation – is treated fairly and with dignity and respect. Those of us left
behind can best honor Bob’s memory by redoubling our efforts to obtain justice for each
and every client we represent.
--Natman Schaye


In Memoriam: Robert Hooker
John Wesley Hall, April 8, 2008

The depth of Robert Hooker's impact on the legal system in Pima County was enormous.
At least one thousand people came to the memorial service, which was held in the Music
Hall of the Tucson Convention Center. The crying was almost over, and this was a
celebration of his life which ended six days earlier.
Spread out around the country, those of us in NACDL just cannot know what each of us
is to our communities--some bigger than others, some so profoundly important to their
communities as a public servant (both as a public employee and in the larger sense of that
word) that nobody understands that this great lawyer turned out to have touched so many
people. It was humbling to be there because one cannot be in a room like that, with so
many people, and think that he or she will ever be remembered so fondly that one
thousand people would come.

We saw him alone or with Sharon, without his staff, without the clients he saved or the
system he worked to reform. He left a judgeship he could have kept in 1983 to go back
to criminal defense. He left private criminal defense to become the public defender at
age 62, and nobody left their employ in three years because he made being a public
defender a respectable, significant, and sought after job in his community. A member of
the Board of Supervisors said at the service that Robert was the kind of man they name
buildings after.

Remember the Emperor's Club? "Great ambition and conquest without contribution is
without significance. What will your contribution be? How will history remember you?"
Robert Hooker contributed much to NACDL, but his work will be legendary in Tucson,
long after he is gone. The Public Defender staff will go on, knowing that Robert gave
them the tools and the desire to do so much more for the poor people accused of crime in
Pima County.

Robert didn't talk much about what he did and was thinking (except at home), but, when
he did, it was because something had to be done or said, and people paid more attention
to him. I remember the quiet poise and strength of his words to the two editorial boards
here back in February about how the principles of the Constitution are slipping away
from our society because the government finds them inconvenient too many times. It
wasn't posed as an argument; it was posed as a fact and that we, as criminal defense
lawyers, have to stand up to the government to preserve our Constitution, not just for
those accused of crime, but for the benefit of preserving the freedom of our whole
society.

The local newspapers had several articles with praise for the man, some quoting
others that "He believed in the system." Natman told me that Bob would not like that
description. Like all of us, he knows that the system is stacked against us, and he was
constantly working to make the system a little better or just more balanced. He was
constantly trying to change the system because it often is not fair. More apt would be
"He believed he could change the system."

I gave Sharon all our love from Carmen, Norman, and the whole NACDL family which
was his extended family, too. I know we'll want to do something at a meeting, and I told
Sharon whenever she was ready: NYC or Milwaukee, and she seemed like NYC was
where she wanted to do it. She wants to keep his legacy alive, which here, needless
to say, is larger than life; way larger than life.
The last page of the small program was the picture over his mantel at home, and under it:
"Let the party continue ...."
--John Wesley Hall, President Elect

								
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