Ethics Complaint Accuses Judge of Using His Position as a “Bully Pulpit”

The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (FJQC) has brought formal charges against Judge Barry Cohen of Palm Beach County. Judge Cohen is accused of using his position to express “disagreement with the laws passed by the Florida Legislature.” Specifically, the FJQC takes issue with Judge Cohen’s outspoken views, that are expressed in the courtroom and in his written opinions, on Florida’s mandatory sentencing laws, marijuana prohibition, and required sex offender registration. Also, the FJQC alleges that Judge Cohen has “repeatedly suggested that the actions of law enforcement may have been improperly motivated by the race or status of suspects.” On several occasions, Judge Cohen has taken the opportunity to share his view that Florida’s justice system unfairly targets minorities and the poor. In the Notice of Formal Charges, the FJQC admonished Judge Cohen asserting that he has “engaged in a pattern of using [his] judicial position as a ‘bully pulpit.’”

The FJQC has also alleged that Judge Cohen’s conduct undermines the public perception of judicial neutrality. The FJQC also found fault in Judge Cohen’s public comments regarding the qualifications of a candidate in the election for the State Attorney for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit. Judge Cohen’s conduct has been criticized as “consistent with…a pattern of conduct that undermines the role of a judge as a neutral, detached magistrate.” In all, the FJQC accuses Judge Cohen of violations of Canons 12Am 3B(5), 3B(7), 3B(9), 3E(1)(a), 5A(1), and 7A(1)(b) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

For more information visit this article at the ABA journal and this article from WPTV.