Plaque commemorates Cohn's passion for history


Among those in attendance at the unveiling of a bronze plaque commemorating the 40-year career of U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn were (l-r) Chief U.S. District Judge Sean Cox, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, Historical Society Executive Director Judith Christie, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman, U.S. District Judge Terrence Berg, Magistrate Judge Kimberly Altman, Historical Society President Matthew Lund and U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds.


Photos courtesy of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan

By David Ashenfelter
Public Information Officer, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan

Dozens of friends, family members and former colleagues of the late U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn gathered at the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Detroit on Tuesday to celebrate his life, legacy, judicial career, and love of history.

The highlight of the event was the unveiling of a bronze plaque marking Cohn’s 40-year career as a U.S. District Judge. Cohn, who gave up his docket in 2019, died in Feb. 4. He was 97 and the longest-serving judge in Michigan.

Cohn was passionate about history and a driving force behind The Historical Society for the Eastern District of Michigan. He was an avid reader who regularly shared books with friends and colleagues.

“Judge Avern Cohn has served as a valued member of the legal community both locally and nationally,” reads the plaque. “He is known for his energetic and enthusiastic support of many local and national community organizations, and for his devotion to the preservation of the history of the Eastern District of Michigan. He has inspired others to pursue research and writing about the history of the law, bestowing upon future generations the benefits of curiosity, scholarship and wisdom.”

The inscription continued with a quote from Cohn: “You cannot get an adequate understanding of history from the Internet or from iPhones or a Kindle. You have to read hard copy and importantly, you have to read the footnotes. Without footnotes, there’s no justification for what the author is saying.”

The plaque was unveiled by Cohn’s longtime law clerk, Kimberly Altman, now a federal magistrate judge for the court, and by Cohn’s grandson, Harrison Magy.

The plaque will be displayed in a prominent location of the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse in Detroit.