iOS app Android app

Joel Cohen
Joel Cohen, a partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP in New York, represents individuals and corporations, typically in his profile cases, in white-collar criminal investigations and prosecutions and in internal investigations, regulatory and enforcement matters. Before practicing at Stroock, he was a New York State and then a U.S. Justice Department prosecutor for ten years concentrating on prosecuting public officials and organized crime figures for public corruption offenses.

For 25 years, Mr. Cohen has been a regular contributor and now a columnist on criminal law and ethics for the New York Law Journal, and for the past two years a monthly columnist for He frequently lectures on these subjects. Last year he published a novel, Truth Be Veiled (Coffeetown Press, 2010), that addresses the criminal lawyer's ethical dilemmas in dealing with truth. He is an Adjunct Professor of Professional Responsibility at Fordham Law School.

In addition to his law practice and legal writings, Mr. Cohen has also published three works of Biblical fiction, Moses: A Memoir (Paulist Press, 2003); Moses and Jesus: A Conversation (Dorrance Publishing Co., 2006); and David and Bathsheba: Through Nathan's Eyes (Paulist Press, 2007).

Entries by Joel Cohen

Prosecutors and the 'Blanket' Policy

(2) Comments | Posted March 26, 2014 | 7:13 PM

Thirty years ago, I represented an extremely successful businessman. He was arrested one evening for an altercation -- the centerpiece of which was that he menacingly cursed at the police. I knew that the city's justice system was slow and that, if I let it take its course, for 24...

Read Post

Can The Fifth Protect Bridgegate Emails?

(2) Comments | Posted February 7, 2014 | 1:49 PM

If there are any smoking guns in Bridgegate, they will be found in emails or texts.

Anyone can say anything. Anyone who had access can point a finger directly at Governor Christie or (former) high-ranking officials in his administration and say something implicating about them. If they do, they...

Read Post

Guiltless Guilty Pleas

(4) Comments | Posted January 31, 2014 | 4:17 PM

The dirty little secret in the administration of criminal justice is that sometimes -- indeed, way too often -- innocent people plead guilty. And this is not about individuals with a mental deficiency who allow the police to falsely or mischievously talk them into a belief in their own guilt....

Read Post

Christie, Public Officials and Emailing

(1) Comments | Posted January 13, 2014 | 4:37 PM

Although the story seems nuttier every day -- just imagine, the very idea of closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge to retaliate against a local politician -- just how much "legs" the Governor Chris Christie story will have depends on email or texts, pure and simple. And whether Christie...

Read Post

"Affluenza" -- The New "Twinkie"

(9) Comments | Posted December 23, 2013 | 1:36 PM

In 1979, Dan White, a former San Francisco police officer, firefighter and city district Supervisor went on trial for assassinating Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. At trial, a defense psychiatrist testified about White's depression; that he had undergone behavioral changes -- quitting his job, shunning his wife and...

Read Post

When O.J. Blames His Lawyer

(2) Comments | Posted December 4, 2013 | 1:43 PM

Last week, in a 100-page opinion, a Las Vegas judge denied O.J. Simpson's multi-pronged motion to set aside his 2008 Las Vegas kidnapping and robbery convictions. They arose from Simpson's ill-conceived -- self-help, gun-assisted -- plot with his conspirators (who testified against him) to recover his football memorabilia from a...

Read Post

Police Versus Prosecutors: The Motorcycle Mayhem

(2) Comments | Posted October 8, 2013 | 9:27 AM

The motorcycle video has gone viral. People worldwide now have seen the scary motorized spectacle that occurred on New York City's West Side Highway on an otherwise bright Sunday afternoon.

How could this have occurred? How can it be that this group -- at least those of it...

Read Post

When 'Truth' May Not Be

(0) Comments | Posted September 11, 2013 | 12:53 PM

Hopefully, the Syria crisis will have been averted.

Still, whatever one's personal view of the president's Syria strategy, and in particular his decision to have first sought Congress's support for it, few questioned -- or even question now -- the passion and self-confidence of Secretary of State Kerry when he...

Read Post

The Informer Game -- Examples That Raise Hard Questions

(0) Comments | Posted July 8, 2013 | 4:57 PM

No prosecution office could survive without witnesses, informers, and the quid pro quo arrangements that enable law enforcement to access crucial information. Typically, informers who have been caught with a hand in the proverbial cookie jar -- who fear legal consequences -- agree to offer information in exchange for leniency...

Read Post

'Chilling' the Press: How Will It Turn Out?

(0) Comments | Posted June 11, 2013 | 2:12 PM

Sure, I get it: we need the press. They're the "surrogate" for the public -- the check and balance against government overreaching in the extreme. The Founding Fathers, whether they truly believed it or not when muckrakers came after them individually, carved it in stone for us nearly 250 years...

Read Post

Why Doesn't the Public Get the Fifth Amendment?

(39) Comments | Posted June 5, 2013 | 11:26 AM

There's been a whole brouhaha over Lois Lerner, departed head of the IRS Tax Exempt Division, having taken the fifth amendment before a House Oversight Committee hearing. What's more, she had the temerity to publicly proclaim her innocence while at the same time politely declining to answer any questions.

Read Post

Do We Want Robots in the Jury Box?

(0) Comments | Posted May 9, 2013 | 11:26 AM

In 1973, the Ninth Circuit somewhat famously said, in United States v. Barnard, that "the jury is the lie detector." The ghosts of George Orwell and Franz Kafka probably issued a collective sigh of relief. Yes, Barnard only dealt with a court's denial of a defense...

Read Post

The Buck Stops Here -- Really?

(0) Comments | Posted May 3, 2013 | 9:46 AM

President Harry S. Truman's desk famously had a sign that said: "The Buck Stops Here."

Less famously, and almost ironically, the sign had been found by Truman's friend in an Oklahoma reformatory. Nonetheless, the phrase's origin actually derived from the expression "passing the buck," meaning passing responsibility on...

Read Post

Do We Begin Teaching Ethics Too Late?

(6) Comments | Posted January 25, 2013 | 2:39 PM

As a lawyer, I'll be the first to admit that among our brethren at the bar, we see ethical failings. And I'm not talking about esoteric lapses in judgment; I'm talking about old fashioned lyin', cheatin' and stealin'. It's tempting to say that the lawyers who do this are the...

Read Post

Judging Judges: When Appearance Matters

(0) Comments | Posted January 4, 2013 | 1:36 PM

When Jethro famously told his son-in-law Moses, the greatest judge in history, that he needed to create a regime of judges -- that for him to alone judge every controversy among the Israelites, however insignificant, would burden him too greatly -- neither Jethro, nor Moses, nor even God Himself set...

Read Post

'Remorse' for Crime: Must It Be Sincere?

(0) Comments | Posted December 19, 2012 | 11:20 AM

Truth is the North Star of criminal justice, isn't it? Maybe not. Maybe, rather, it is akin to teaching kids that George Washington never told a lie. Deep down, we want kids to believe it, but every adult knows in his heart that it's a myth, something like the Bible's...

Read Post

Ceglia v. Mark Zuckerberg: May a Civil Litigator Simply Accept His Client's "Truth"?

(0) Comments | Posted November 15, 2012 | 9:59 AM

What are the obligations of my civil attorney, or one I seek to retain, if I present him with a handwritten contract, purportedly bearing the signature of the late George Steinbrenner, that says that I own 10% of the New York Yankees? Imagine I tell my lawyer that, out on...

Read Post

The Presidential Debates: Judges Shouldn't Be Swayed By Opinion Polls

(1) Comments | Posted October 9, 2012 | 3:27 PM

The results are in. By virtually every account -- most importantly, the public's -- the President lost the first debate. Notably, the adverse reviews aren't about his message. Rather, it was his messaging.

The President will correct. Neither Governor Romney nor we will see the same President Obama next...

Read Post

When a Prosecutor Learns He Has Likely Convicted an Innocent

(6) Comments | Posted July 31, 2012 | 3:01 PM

There's no level playing field for criminal justice. Even the most aggressive prosecutor would readily acknowledge that, while some criminal defendants can afford a lawyer with more experience and funding, some of the weaponry in a prosecutor's immense arsenal will never, ever, be available to the defense.

The defense...

Read Post

What If Etan Patz's 'Confessed' Killer Had Had a Lawyer?

(2) Comments | Posted June 8, 2012 | 10:46 AM

Pedro Hernandez, the man who has now confessed to murdering six year old Etan Patz 33 years ago, had no lawyer when he decided two weeks ago to confess the killing to the police. Things don't always happen as they do on television.

Whatever motivated him to confess now (and...

Read Post