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Commentary: County Judge Cohen reprimanded by Florida Supreme Court

Palm Beach County Judge Barry M. Cohen

Yesterday, April 29, 2014, the Florida Supreme Court reprimanded Palm Beach County Judge Barry Cohen for making political comments on the bench, making political statements in public and writing a letter to the Palm Beach Post about an upcoming state attorney race. In the interest of full disclosure, I was once a juror in a case in which Judge Cohen presided and found him to be professional and he did not act during that case, as he has been accused.

In fact, I was more bothered he was barred from mentioning the full rights of the jury on the issue of nullifying the law the defendant was accused of violating. However, we have had Libertarians go to jail in Florida for educating the public on their rights as jurors, so it is of little surprise; Cohen is not permitted to instruct the jury on their full rights. I will also disclose that I fully support Judge Cohen's criticism of the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office for bringing cases to trial that in my view, are a complete waste of the taxpayer's money. It is unfortunate I was an alternate juror in that particular case, as I would have caused a hung jury or a full acquittal for the defendant.

Yesterday 15 Palm Beach County judges stood in protest of Cohen's reprimand, however it had little effect. Florida Chief Justice Ricky Polston said yesterday, “This should be a sad day for you. This is a sad day for us. More importantly, it is a sad day for the judiciary.”

Was Cohen accused of violating state law? No. However, because he made enemies of the State Attorney's office, the Supreme Court felt the need to make an attempt at embarrassing Judge Cohen, however it has done nothing more than grow his support. I do not agree with all of what Judge Cohen is accused of saying, however I do support his right to do so.

Judge Cohen's brother Harold said yesterday, “Unless a judge is willing to stand up and speak about an injustice, this country is headed for serious trouble. This is more than about Barry Cohen. It’s about injustice.”

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