Avern Cohn, retired judge who served for 40 years, dies

Posted at 9:40 AM, Feb 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-06 09:40:30-05

DETROIT (AP) — Avern Cohn, a retired federal judge who heard cases into his 90s, has died at age 97, a court spokesman said Saturday.

Cohn died Friday after a brief illness, spokesman David Ashenfelter said.

Nominated by President Jimmy Carter, Cohn was a federal judge in Detroit for 40 years until stepping down in 2019 at age 95.

“While I don’t believe in mandatory retirement,” he said at the time, “there comes a time in the course of one’s work that they retire and let their work be borne by younger persons.”

Long before becoming a judge, Cohn was involved in public service. He was chairman of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission in the 1970s and also served on the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, the civilian oversight panel.

People who were arrested during the 1967 Detroit riot got free legal representation from Cohn. He spent 30 years in private law practice handling administrative law matters and representing clients in business disputes.

In 2010, he presided over the case of Monica Conyers, a Detroit City Council member who was convicted of taking bribes to support a sludge-hauling contractor. She was sentenced to three years in prison.

Cohn in 2019 refused to send a group of Yemeni men to prison for failing to register as a money-transfer business. They had sent millions of dollars to their war-torn native country.

The judge noted that Yemen’s financial system was a mess and its residents desperately need help.

“Only people without compassion” would object to the light sentences, Cohn told The Associated Press.