Cooley’s extensive writings on constitutional law influenced and were sometimes cited by Supreme Court justices.
When Cooley was nineteen, he decided to go to Chicago to further his education but ran out of funds in Adrian, Michigan. He finished his law studies there and was admitted to the Michigan bar. Cooley worked at several jobs before he turned to the full-time practice of law. He was an excellent researcher and writer and in 1857 was appointed to compile the legal statutes of the state of Michigan, which were published in multiple volumes. The work took him a year to complete. Officials were so impressed with his hard work and detailed results that he was appointed the official reporter for the Michigan supreme court. Cooley published eight volumes of Michigan supreme court reports during his six years as the official reporter.
In 1864 he was elected a justice of the Michigan supreme court; he was reelected several times but was defeated in 1885. While a judge, he was a prolific evaluator of and writer on constitutional laws. In 1866 he published the Digest of Michigan Reports, and in 1868 a Treatise on Constitutional Limitations of the Legislative Power of the States. The latter legal work made Cooley famous as a jurist. His discussion of due process in the treatise and his assertion that individuals should not be arbitrarily deprived of liberty in matters that affected their pursuit of happiness are believed to have influenced the doctrine of freedom of contract and protection of property rights developed by the Supreme Court. His reputation spread across the nation, and his opinions were widely cited by lawyers and law students.
Contract, freedom of
Due process, substantive