Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sun-Sentinel profiles Judge Jimmy Cohn

Paula McMahon does a very nice job here, describing him as "a true Southern gentleman" and "tough but fair." He's being profiled because he's got three huge sentencings coming up -- Scott Rothstein, Beverly Gallagher, and Fitzroy Salesman. Judge Cohn did what more judges should do and agreed to be interviewed for the article...

Some highlights from McMahon's article:
  • Cohn, 61, is a lifelong Democrat nominated to the federal judiciary in 2003 by Republican President George W. Bush and confirmed 96-0 by a Republican-dominated Senate during a bitterly partisan era. His confirmation hearing was described by the Sun Sentinel as "a striking display of harmony in a contentious arena" but Cohn said that, as a Democrat selected by a Republican president, he was unlikely to face opposition.
  • Growing up in Tuskegee, Ala., during the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 60s, the Cohns owned a store and were one of two Jewish families in town. There was no synagogue so Cohn, his parents and his two sisters drove 40 miles west to the Reform temple in Montgomery for religious classes. "The worst part of it was I missed the first half of the NFL game," Cohn said wryly.
  • "You want to assimilate, you don't want to be different, no kid wants to be different," Cohn said. "On the other hand, you want to maintain your Jewish heritage and traditions."For Cohn, playing sports was the best way to fit in. He was a quarterback on the Tuskegee High School football team, an all-star second baseman in baseball, ran track and played basketball.
  • After passing his bar exams in Alabama and Florida, his sister and parents, who retired to South Florida, persuaded him to interview here. After a brief stint as a Broward public defender, then State Attorney Philip Shaler offered him a $1,000 raise — to $13,000 — to be a prosecutor. Cohn prosecuted cases from 1975 to 1978, working with two men who are still his friends, current State Attorney Mike Satz and defense attorney Richard Garfield.
  • Jurors trusted his sincerity and people at the county courthouse still talk about how he won a "not guilty by reason of insanity" jury verdict on a first-degree murder case — a difficult feat under Florida's restrictive law. The defendant, Robert Lee Endicott shot and killed a young woman in Fort Lauderdale in 1979. Endicott is still involuntarily committed 30 years later.
  • He awakes at 5 a.m., doesn't use an alarm clock and has never overslept in his life. He's at the gym by 5:30 a.m. and goes to bed by 9 or 9:30 p.m. "unless there's a ball game."

There's a whole lot more, including how Judge Cohn overcame a stutter in the ninth grade, the adoption of his son, how he tried 144 cases one year as a state judge (second place only to Judge Dimitrouleas), watching Seinfeld reruns, loving Alabama, and other gems.

The article is definitely worth a read.

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