Indefinite Suspension for New Jersey Assemblyman

     (CN) – Former New Jersey assemblyman Neil Cohen was indefinitely suspended from the practice of law for pleading guilty to viewing child pornography.
     The Democrat had been a member of the state Assembly from 1994 until his 2008 arrest related to images recovered from his office computer depicting 19 girls younger than 16.
     Cohen pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
     That plea led to Cohen’s suspension from the practice of law, and he was sentenced in 2010 to five years in prison.
     A Disciplinary Review Board recommended a two-year suspension as Cohen’s final punishment. Two dissenting members of the panel voted for disbarment.
     The New Jersey Supreme Court last week adopted a harsher penalty than that recommended by the board but did not disbar Cohen.
     “Respondent’s guilty plea to second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, based on the discovery of sexually explicit pornographic images of children on a state-issued desktop computer – used by him while serving as Assemblyman – and on his private law office computer, warrants an indeterminate period of suspension,” Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina wrote for the unanimous court.
     The Thursday ruling said Cohen may seek reinstatement on Jan. 13, 2016 – five years after the date of his temporary suspension.
     Cohen’s alleged mental illness, his own experience of being sexually abused as a child and his attempts to seek treatment factored into the court’s decision to impose “for the first time, discipline not formerly used.”
     Indefinite suspension “is a step short of disbarment and is the most severe suspension that can be imposed on an attorney,” Fernandez-Vina said. “Imposition of the indeterminate suspension in this case places all attorneys on notice of the consequences that may follow sexually-related offenses.”

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