Group pays tribute to AG Nessel, Judge Cohn

The Jewish Bar Association of Michigan (JBAM) will honor two prominent members of the legal community at its online awards event on Tuesday, May 25.

State Attorney General Dana Nessel will receive JBAM’s inaugural Ruth Bader Ginsburg Champion of Justice Award and retired U.S. District Court Judge Avern Cohn will receive JBAM’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.

JBAM’s 2021 Awards Event will be held on Zoom at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 25. The festivities are free and open to the community. Those interested in attending can register at

Nessel, a graduate of Wayne State University Law School, served in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

In private practice, she represented a lesbian couple in an adoption case that eventually led to the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage throughout the country.

As attorney general, she formed a Hate Crimes Unit and an Elder Abuse Task Force. She has worked to protect consumers and sued manufacturers of PFAS pollutants. A Democrat, she is the first openly LGBTQ person elected to statewide office in Michigan.

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg embodied the essence of a trailblazer,” Nessel said. “It is not lost on me that I will humbly accept this honor in its inaugural year as the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Champion of Justice Award. I deeply appreciate this recognition and remain committed to reinforcing the late justice’s advocacy for current and future generations.”

Cohn served on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan for four decades 1979-2019.

He was a 1949 graduate of University of Michigan Law School.

His 30-year law career leading up to his judgeship included working in the firm of his father, famed attorney Irwin Cohn, which later merged into Honigman, Miller, Schwartz, and Cohn in Detroit.

Cohn also served as chair of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and on the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, where he advocated for affirmative action to increase the number of Black and female police officers.

His many volunteer roles in the Jewish community included serving as president of Detroit’s Jewish Federation, 1981-1983. Like his father, Avern Cohn was awarded Federation’s Fred M. Butzel Award for distinguished community service.

At the event, JBAM will also award Charles J. Cohen Esq. Law Student Scholarships to Jessica Davidova of Wayne State University Law School and Chase O. Yarber of University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

The Jewish Bar Association of Michigan provides education, resources and camaraderie for lawyers and legal support to the wider community.


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