Juvenile Court Judge Aaron Cohn always asked the same question while discussing a case with an attorney representing a minor: "How is it with the child?"
The child who was in trouble was his first priority, Chief Superior Court Judge Gil McBride recalled Friday as court workers and dignitaries unveiled a portrait of the late judge, who served from 1965 to 2011.
Cohn never focused on what the lawyers
or the police or even the parents wanted, just on what decision would be best for the child -- a model for all judges to follow, McBride said.
Presiding Juvenile Court Judge Warner Kennon and his colleague Judge Andrew Dodgen have followed that model, embracing the legacy they inherited from their mentor. Dodgen said he finds himself stealing Cohn's words as he lectures an ungrateful minor, and gave an example to those at the unveiling in the Government Center's east wing courtroom:
"Who feeds you? Who clothes you? Who put that roof over your head? What are you doing for them? Nothing! Your conduct is disgusting!" Dodgen mimicked Cohn, adding, "That's kind of the way it went."
Daughter Gail Cohn said the portrait that's to hang in the judge's chambers was replicated on canvas by Mike Culpepper, using the original that now hangs in Columbus' Aaron Cohn Middle School. A Japanese artist working at Aflac painted the portrait years ago, when Cohn was in his 50s, Gail Cohn said.
Fourteen months after he retired from the bench, Judge Cohn died July 4, 2012.
He was 96.
Among the memories coworkers shared were accounts of Cohn's calm during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The judge saw the news reports on a TV in his office, where Dodgen walked in to ask what was happening.
"We are under attack," the judge said, his eyes and voice steady.
Others were near panic, Dodgen recalled, but Cohn knew they had work to do.
"Nothing has changed," Cohn told his staff. "Let's get back to work."