Charles Cooper, head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, Friday became the latest aide of Attorney General Edwin Meese III to hand in his resignation.

Cooper said in a letter to Meese that he will leave the department July 8. The resignation is "wholly unrelated to the controversy of today," the letter said in a reference to Meese's legal troubles and a recent series of departures by key aides at the Justice Department."Some will be tempted to characterize my resignation in ways that suit their purposes," Cooper said in the letter.

But he said that "I hasten to stress that in leaving the Department, I am carrying through with plans formed in a calmer time and based on a host of personal and professional considerations." Cooper said he had long planned to leave the department this summer to enter private law practice, but the letter did not make clear whether Cooper has a job lined up.

While the head of the legal counsel's office has remained loyal to Meese, sources said Cooper had serious doubts about remaining at the Justice Department two months ago.