The Court of Judicial Discipline in Pennsylvania gave a directive on August 23, 2023, for the case involving Judge Mark B. Cohen from the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. The Court ordered the parties to present their trial briefs and their proposed conclusions and facts on or before October 16, 2023.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Mark B. Cohen,” and was bought by the Judicial Conduct Board of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with case no. 1 JD 2023.

The charges cited Canon 1, Rule 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, Canon 3, Rule 3.1, 3.7(a), Canon 4, and Rule 4.1(A)(3), 4.1(A)(11) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and Article V, 17(b) of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which state:

A judge shall comply with the law, including the Code of Judicial Conduct.

A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

A judge shall not abuse the prestige of the judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others or allow others to do so.

Judges shall regulate their extrajudicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with their judicial duties and to comply with all provisions of this Canon. However, a judge shall not..(C) participate in activities that would reasonably appear to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality.

Avocational activities. Judges may write, lecture, teach, and speak on non-legal subjects and engage in the arts, sports, and other social and recreational activities if such avocational activities do not detract from the dignity of their office or interfere with the performance of their judicial duties.

Except as permitted by Rules 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4, a judge or a judicial candidate shall not publicly endorse or publicly oppose a candidate for any public office.

Except as permitted by Rules 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4, a judge or a judicial candidate shall not engage in any political activity on behalf of a political organization or candidate for public office except on behalf of measures to improve the law, the legal the system, or the administration of justice.

Justices and judges shall not engage in any activity prohibited by law and shall not violate any canon of legal or judicial ethics prescribed by the Supreme Court.

The issue was rooted in a report stating that Cohen had authored and made improper posts on his personal Facebook page. In summary, Judge Cohen’s Facebook postings consisted of the following: (1) his sympathetic, supportive, or positive views of political figures, living and dead, from the Democratic Party and, generally, from the political “left”; (2) his support for legislation instituted and embraced by the Democratic Party and, generally, the political “left”; (3) his support for policy initiatives or issues embraced by the Democratic Party and, generally, the political “left”; (4) his criticism of political figures from the Republican Party and the political “right”; and (5) his criticism of policy initiatives and legislation instituted and embraced by the Republican Party or the political “right.”

Judge Cohen acknowledged the said Facebook posts, which the Board determined as warranting formal charges. Screenshots of these posts are attached to the Board Complaint as Exhibit A(I) through (lXVI). Some of the posts are as follows:

  1. On October 29, 2022, at 12:28 p.m.: “David DePape, the apprehended assailant of Pelosi, continues to gain notoriety as more extremist posts emerge. It’s evident he’s a failed and hateful individual capable of many dreadful deeds.”
  2. On October 28, 2022, at 9:16 p.m.: “CNN: David DePape, 42-year-old accused attempted murderer of Paul and Nancy Pelosi, allegedly made bigoted posts against LGBTQ individuals, Jews, the January 6 Committee, and other right-wing targets. Are you surprised? ii. Why am I not.”
  3. On November 19, 2021, at 3:22 p.m.. “President Joe Biden’s (sic] Build Back Better Bill passed the US House this morning. Chuck Schumer says he wants passage by Christmas.” In response to another poster’s question about whether the bill would actually help many people after the “moderate” Ds and Rs “gut it,” Judge Cohen posted “I think so, but we’ll see.” The other poster remarked, “I guess a little help is still better than zero. Progress in a democracy is so slow,” to which Judge Cohen responded, “Yes it is, unfortunately!”

In the latest development of the case, an order issued by the court stated that the transcript for the ongoing legal matter was officially submitted to the court on August 23, 2023. This pivotal step signifies a crucial milestone in the case, as it provides an accurate and comprehensive record of the proceedings up to that point. It was ordered that the parties involved have been granted the opportunity to collaborate and review the transcript, thereby ensuring its accuracy. Any necessary corrections can be proposed through this consultative process, underscoring the commitment to fairness and precision in the legal proceedings.

As the case advances, a significant date to mark on the calendar is October 16, 2023. On this day, both parties are slated to present their proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, and supporting trial briefs. This simultaneous submission will undoubtedly shed light on the perspectives and legal stances of each side involved. Moreover, the timeline extends to November 2, 2023, should either party choose to submit a reply brief. This additional window provides an opportunity to address and counter any points raised during the initial presentation of documents.

Judge Cohen’s courtroom is located at the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, 1416 Family Court Building, 1501 Arch Street, and can be reached at 215-686-7346. His info can be found on ballotpedia.org

A copy of the original filing can be found here.