Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are
Hover Over Items In Main Menu To View Sub-Menus
February 27, 2010
Broward Circuit Judge Dale Cohen was accused by The Judicial Qualifications Commission of exploiting his position to further his interests and those of his wife, who is running for election to the county bench.
The charges stem from an incident in which Cohen called his wife, Mardi Anne Levey Cohen, to testify in his courtroom about a request for the judge to step down from handling an unrelated criminal case.
This started when Fort Lauderdale Defense attorney Stephen Melnick filed a recusal motion.
Melnick claimed the judge had a conflict of interest because the attorney was involved in litigation against Cohen's wife, Mardi Levey Cohen, when she ran unsuccessfully against Circuit Judge Pedro Dijols in 2008. Attorney William Scherer represented Dijols in a dispute over the name she wanted on the ballot, and Melnick, a Dijols supporter, conferred with Scherer before the lawsuit was filed.
Rather than approve the disqualification motion, Cohen scheduled the hearing and called his wife as a witness. The JQC charged the judge's goal was to intimidate and embarrass Melnick.
Cohen eventually granted Melnick's motion, but the way he handled it, the Judicial Qualifications Commission said, showed "a continuing pattern of judicial misconduct."
"Your purpose in holding the hearing was to intimidate Mr. Melnick, and in doing so you used the courtroom and the power of your office to advance the interests of you and your wife," the commission's attorneys wrote to Cohen. "Your conduct was an abuse of your judicial power, an abuse of your office and was an improper use of your office for personal gain."
Cohen held a hearing on another recusal motion filed by Melnick in a different case 22 days later and called the defendant to the stand. Melnick objected to questions intruding on attorney client privilege.
The judge's wife also comes in for criticism in the eight-page charging document. Levey Cohen was seen trying to "clandestinely" photograph Melnick in another courtroom, and her husband submitted those photographs to the Judicial Qualifications Commission to bolster his criticism of Melnick, according to the commission's attorneys.
If the charges of judicial misconduct brought against him by the Judicial Qualifications Commission are sustained, Cohen could face anything from a reprimand to possible removal from the bench. He could resolve the case against him or go to trial to fight the allegations.
The JQC has a the equivalent of a trial, then makes recommendations, however, the final decision on punishment lies with the Florida Supreme Court.
The outcome of these cases is often determined by the judge's willingness to accept responsibility, show remorse and promise to reform, he said. Removal from the bench is usually reserved for the worst kinds of misconduct and when a judge remains defiant.
Cohen, who was appointed to the bench in 2006 by then-Gov. Jeb Bush and kept his seat in the 2008 election, is currently handling criminal cases.
The JQC took issue with several of Cohen's actions, starting last August, 2009.
When Cohen appeared before the commission's investigative panel in November, he said Melnick was a friend. But Judge Cohen contradicted himself two months later in writing by "personally attacking" Melnick, describing him as "less than ethical" and criticizing his casual dressing for court, the JQC attorneys wrote.
Melnick declined to comment Thursday except to say that he did not file the complaint against Cohen.
Cohen's conduct violated judicial rules, showed disregard for the Code of Judicial Conduct, was unbecoming of a judge, lacked the dignity appropriate to judicial office and brought the judiciary into disrepute, the JQC charged.
January 18, 2011
Broward Circuit Judge Dale Cohen conceded Tuesday at his trial on judicial misconduct charges that he made a mistake by calling his wife as a witness at an evidentiary hearing on a disqualification motion.
Judge Cohen is facing trial before a state Judicial Qualifications Commission hearing panel and hopes to show his actions at the 2009 hearing did not rise to the level of misconduct that would subject him to punishment.
F. Wallace Pope Jr., special counsel for the commission, asked Cohen whether he put Melnick in a position of having to attack the judge's wife.
Cohen admitted he did. Pope, a partner with Johnson Pope Bokor Ruppel & Burns in Clearwater, noted Melnick had objected.
The JQC maintains Cohen should never have held the hearing because the motion was legally sufficient on its face. And he should not have put himself in the position of calling witnesses, let alone calling his own wife.
Melnick testified, "I felt really uncomfortable trying to cross examine a judge's wife in front of the judge."
Levey Cohen was asked for her opinion as an experienced lawyer about being called as a witness. She said: "It was a mistake. It was the wrong thing to do. Judges make mistakes. That's why we have appellate hearings."
While Cohen recused himself after the hearing, he said he couldn't just ignore an opportunity to clear the air between Melnick and his wife.
"I can't pass on the truth," Cohen said. "I let the two parties speak, and I just granted the motion."
Scherer, who followed the judge on the witness stand, testified Judge Cohen acted as an observer during a recount of his wife's votes after the 2008 primary.
Asked by panelists whether that was unusual, Scherer said: "It's unusual for a sitting judge. It's highly unusual."
Scherer of Conrad & Scherer in Fort Lauderdale said an official election observer is an agent of the candidate and has the role of challenging any questionable ballots.
Cohen's wife, elected a county judge last November, testified later.
She said the only thing he did was accompany her to the election office to speak to someone about the process, and they left after 10 or 15 minutes.
"He just went to see what was happening," she said.
When asked if he was present as her representative, Levey Cohen said: "Never. I would never do that because I knew he couldn't be involved in my campaign."
The JQC panel is chaired by Henry Coxe of Bedell Dittmar Devault in Jacksonville.
August 30, 2012
Saying lawyers should not be placed in a position where they fear retaliation for filing a motion to disqualify, the Florida Supreme Court has ordered that Broward County Judge Dale C. Cohen be publicly reprimanded.
Acting August 30 in Case No. SC10-348, the court found Judge Cohen violated several judicial canons when he called his wife to the witness stand and questioned her regarding facts set forth in a recusal motion and allowed his conduct on the bench to be influenced by social and family relationships.
The charges arose out of a hearing on a motion for disqualification that was filed on August 6, 2009. An attorney filed a motion to recuse Judge Cohen based upon an alleged dispute with Judge Cohen’s wife who was a judicial candidate. The attorney had supported an opponent of the judge’s wife.
At a hearing on the motion, Judge Cohen called his wife as a witness to refute the allegations in the motion. Judge Cohen later held additional hearings in which he questioned the attorney’s clients and threatened to file a complaint against the attorney with The Florida Bar.
The court said the rules governing an initial motion for disqualification are clear, and pursuant to Rule 2.330(f), Judge Cohen was required to either grant the motion for disqualification or to deny it as legally insufficient.
Judge Cohen testified before the Judicial Qualification Commission’s investigative panel that he believed the allegations in the motion were exaggerated and, during lunch, asked his wife to come to the courtroom with the intent of calling her as a witness.
When court resumed, Judge Cohen called his wife to the witness stand over counsel’s objections and questioned her regarding the facts set forth in the recusal motion.
“In doing so, Judge Cohen forced counsel to place his own credibility against the credibility of the judge’s wife,” the court said. “Judge Cohen acknowledged in his testimony that he violated the canons by allowing his wife to testify as a witness and in not following the law.”
Judge Cohen said he held the hearing “in order to remain on friendly terms” with the attorney and to resolve what he believed to be a misunderstanding between the attorney and his wife.
“Judge Cohen thus allowed his conduct on the bench to be influenced by social and family relationships, in violation of Canon 2B,” the court said. “Judge Cohen further engaged in an ex parte discussion of the case with his wife, in violation of Canon 3B(7), presided over a proceeding in which disqualification was required, in violation of Canons 3B(1) and 3E, and failed to remain faithful to the law, in violation of Canon 3B(2).”
In his brief to the court, Judge Cohen did not dispute the essential facts of the case, but did challenge the JQC’s conclusion that his purpose in holding the evidentiary hearing was to “embarrass and intimidate [the attorney], and to prevent him from filing more recusal motions reflecting poorly” on his wife when she was engaged in another election campaign.
“Regardless of his motivations, however, an observer of the hearing could certainly have reached the conclusion that Judge Cohen was seeking to use the power of his office to vindicate his wife against accusations by an attorney who had supported one of her opponents in a previous election,” the court said, adding that “such a hearing undermines the integrity and independence of the judiciary.”
Moreover, the court said, the very act of holding an evidentiary hearing created a hostile atmosphere for the litigating attorney.
“Attorneys should not be placed in a position where they fear retaliation for filing a motion to disqualify,” the court said. “Not only was [the] attorney . . . placed in such a position, but he also was forced to place his own credibility against the credibility of the judge’s wife.”
The court said judges must avoid circumstances which give the appearance that their personal or familial interest are being pitted against an attorney or litigant.
“For this reason, among others, a judge may not preside over a proceeding in which his or her spouse is a material witness,” the court said.
The justices said the hostile atmosphere was only furthered when Judge Cohen held an additional evidentiary hearing in another case involving the attorney. Rather than grant the recusal motion or deny it as legally insufficient, as required by Rule 2.330(f), Judge Cohen personally questioned the defendant concerning the contents of the motion and threatened to file a complaint with The Florida Bar against the attorney.
“Judge Cohen’s actions created the impression that he had a personal animus against [the attorney] and that he was using the authority of his office to pursue him,” the court said.
Judge Cohen argued before the JQC that he questioned the defendants in two of the attorney’s cases because he believed the attorney was engaging in forum shopping.
“While the court agreed that a judge who receives information or has actual knowledge that substantial likelihood exists that a lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar shall take appropriate action, that action does not extend to conduct that constitutes a violation of the law or other canons.”
The court said by holding evidentiary hearings on the motions to recuse, Judge Cohen violated the Code of Judicial Conduct.
The court also ordered Judge Cohen to pay for the costs of the proceedings.
Sources: The Florida Bar News
Judges Quietly Applaud Cohen’s Fall
August 30, 2012
Originally Published by:
BY BUDDY NEVINS, Browarbeat.com
Broward judges today have wide smiles while they slap high fives.
Broward Circuit Judge Dale Cohen is going down.
“I don’t know one judge who won’t be happy today, said a courthouse source.
“He doesn’t have a friend on the bench.
Maybe Cohen won’t be thrown off the bench for “a continuing pattern of judicial misconduct. He is accused by the Judicial Qualifications Commission of using his postion to further wife Mardi Anne Levey Cohen’s candidacy.
But Cohen is wounded. A lot of judges are ecstatic.
Cohen’s crime in the eye of many judges is that he allowed his wife to run two years ago against his colleague Pedro Dijols. She filed for office just weeks after the Cohens and the Dijols had dinner together.
Cohen’s crime in the eye of the JQC is that he then allowed his courtroom to become a forum for her current 2010 county court campaign. Top Sun- Sentinel reporter Paula McMahon wrote about it this a.m.
Inside the courthouse, judges snubbed Cohen because of his wife’s campaign against one of their own.
“He became persona non grata, the source said. “Judges wouldn’t talk to him.
I’ve seen them walk by and deliberately turn their head to avoid talking to him.
Mardi Anne Levey Cohen was not some outsider running against a judge in 2008. She was the wife of another judge, and that’s the difference to the courthouse crowd.
When I worked at the Sun-Sentinel, if the editor asked me to write a damaging story about my wife’s boss, I would have refused. It would have hurt her among her colleagues.
Cohen is different from me.
The judge couldn’t stop Mardi when she told him she was running against a fellow judge. He gave in to his wife despite the broken friendships, the courthouse cold shoulders and the damage to his reputation among colleagues.
Courthouse regulars tell me they understand how Cohen allowed his wife to destroy his career.
“Did you ever meet her? a source said. “She wears the pants in the family. He apparently does everything she tells him.
Cohen was blinded by love to the ethics of the court.
Shakespeare explained love as “winged Cupid painted blind.
I refer Cohen to another well-known quote from Shakespeare. He may need to use it if the JQC throws him off the bench:
“Parting is such sweet sorrow”.
“Allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."
Legal Notice: southfloridacurrution.com™ utilizes YouTube (Google) as a video hosting & advertising portal. We act and operate as an independent blog entity. We are in no way employed, affiliated, subservient to, agents of, or acting on behalf of YouTube, or her parent company Google, in the posting of videos, or posted videos.
All information, data, and material contained, presented, or provided on SouthFloridaCorruption.com is for educational purposes only. It is not to be construed or intended as providing legal advice. Any views expressed here-in are not necessarily those held by SouthFloridaCorruption.com
© 2016-2019 South Florida Corruption.Com All Rights Reserved
DISCLOSURE-By clicking on any ads, we may earn a small commission as an affiliate advertiser, at no extra cost to you.