DISBARRED- The Series: Roy Cohn


Roy Cohn was a Jewish lawyer from the Bronx who gained fame and later notoriety as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy in his investigation into Communist activities in the 1950′s. Son of a judge and graduate of Columbia Law School at the age of twenty, Cohn had to wait until he was twenty-one to begin his legal career as a prosecutor in the Department of Justice offices in Manhattan.

Cohn worked on the Alger Hiss trial, an American lawyer, accused of being a Soviet spy, and was on the team of prosecutors who obtained espionage convictions and the death penalty for Soviet spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg in 1951. Cohn often told others that it was his cross-examination of Ethel Rosenberg’s brother that sealed the convictions. He also bragged that it was his personal recommendation to the judge that the death penalty be imposed on the Rosenberg’s.

In 1954 Edgar Hoover of the Federal Bureau of Investigation chose Roy Cohn over Robert Kennedy to act as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy, the decision apparently made to avert any accusations of anti-Semitism. Several years later McCarthy and Cohn were investigated for the zeal they employed in the McCarthy hearings, including their condemnation of both communist sympathizers and homosexuals. Cohn bore the brunt of the criticism, while McCarthy’s career lay in shambles.

Cohn left the Department of Justice and went into private practice for thirty years, acting for high-profile clients such as Donald Trump, Mafia figures Tony Salerno and John Gotti, Studio 54 owner Steven Rubell, the Roman Catholic Diocese in New York and the New York Yankees Baseball Club.

In the 1970′s and 80′s, federal investigators charged Cohn with professional misconduct, perjury, witness tampering and financial improprieties involving city contracts and private investments, but he was never convicted.

However, in 1986 a five member panel of the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division disbarred Roy Cohn for unethical conduct, misappropriation of client funds and pressuring a client to amend his will. The “will” incident happened in 1975 when Cohn attended upon a dying, comatose, multimillionaire client in hospital; lifted his hand, placed a pen in it and had him make a mark on a will that benefitted Cohn and his client’s granddaughter.

The official stripping of his license to practice law occurred in the last month of Cohn’s life in August 1986 at the age of 59. Mr. Cohn was diagnosed with AIDS in 1984 but kept his illness a secret. It was reported that Mr. Cohn’s goal was to die completely impecunious, owing money to the U.S. tax authorities. He apparently succeeded.

Roy Cohn’s life and legacy survives in today’s popular culture. In the award winning “Angels in America”, written by Tony Kushner, Cohn was played by actor Al Pacino as a hypocrite haunted by the image of Ethel Rosenberg as he lays dying from AIDS. Characters modeled after Roy Cohn have also appeared in The Simpson’s, The X-Files, a Kurt Vonnegut novel and a song written by New Yorker, Billy Joel.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee


4 thoughts on “DISBARRED- The Series: Roy Cohn

  1. Good evening Georgialee,  I so enjoy your emails and blogs after seeing them posted months ago by my dear friend Natalie Bodine. Not only are they informational and enlightening but also clearly identify your ideals that truth shall prevail or at least be exposed.

      Personally, i just concluded an 8 day trial and 3 years of family law litigation with a  multitude of hearings, 2 Judges, 18 mental healthy professionals along my journey only to be back at ground zero. My case is an extremely complicated parental alienation case and I was wondering if you are licensed to handle appeals in Florida. 

     I have filed a notice of appeal, but without my usual conviction as I am disgruntle to say the least with the inept, unethical, novice( no Family law background), and wimpy final judgement. 

    My first judge, who actually was compassionate and got the situation, and even took the kids away from my ex for us to go to the renowned Family Bridges program( Warshak) was bullied by OC, nearly 2 years after our first EH and recused himself. He was not a wimp, but probably didn’t want to deal with the lead OC who came on our case after my ex’s death threat of me while simultaneously hugging my daughter in the presence of video cameras, deputies, approx. 100 people in the lobby,  his atty , my atty, in the courthouse lobby. 

    Anyhow, it’s detailed and I hope to make a documentary, to help others and guide them in this insane process. 

     I realize you are very busy, but would so appreciate your letting me know if by chance you would like to take a peek at a case that should have been slam/dunk . I have had a GAL, evaluator, family therapist( whom Judge #2 would not allow to testify,) psychologists who performed testing on paramour and testified and taught Judge all about pyschopathology while on skype getting chemo, yet he determined she was not credible and on and on..

    If you read my FJ and didn’t know my case at all, you will find such errs. I have an appellate atty awaiting for me to pull the trigger. She is honest and only takes cases that she knows are potential for winning. But I know you have the avenue to make a difference in my life, my children’s and to help others with your media coverage.

    I said from the get go, I wanted to make a case precedent and I still go .

    Should you want to read 2 appellate orders on the internet, just google my name.. OC is a lieing, scandulous, obtrusive NAR who had me on the stand 7 of the 8 days and tried to make me the culprit and my only goal has been to save and protect my children from PA( child abuse) .

    My name is Emily Weissman and again, thank you for caring and all you do to stand up for justice. 

    Please respond as soon as possible. Thanks. 

    Kind regards,

    Emily Weissman Tampa, FL  813-966-4645 emsplace@prodigy.net

    >________________________________ > From: Lawdiva’s Blog >To: emsplace@prodigy.net >Sent: Sunday, July 6, 2014 4:33 PM >Subject: [New post] DISBARRED- The Series: Roy Cohn > > > > WordPress.com >Georgialee Lang posted: ” Roy Cohn was a Jewish lawyer from the Bronx who gained fame and later notoriety as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy in his investigation into Communist activities in the 1950′s. Son of a judge and graduate of Columbia Law School at the age o” >

  2. EW has her facts all wrong!!! She cannot and will not take any responsibility for the actions she has taken. She is obsessed with this case.

    1. Madeline I have done a series titled “Disbarred” and recounted the details of various lawyers, both in Canada and the US, who after high-flying careers were removed from the profession. It is an informational series only as many younger lawyers are not aware of the history of the leaders at the bar. You may be interested in reading about F. Lee Bailey, Marvin Mitchelson, Harry Kypyto, Alan Eagleson, and many others. Thanks for reading.

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