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Chief administrative law judge Bob Cohen wins 2019 Claude Pepper Award

“The highest ideals of dedication, professionalism, and ethics.”

The Government Lawyer Section of The Florida Bar announced that Bob Cohen, the state’s outgoing chief administrative law judge, has received the section’s 2019 Claude Pepper Award.

“The Award is presented each year to an individual who has exemplified the highest ideals of dedication, professionalism, and ethics in service to the public,” a news release said.

Cohen is head of the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH), headquartered in Tallahassee. He was appointed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush and has served since 2003, “after 21 years of practice in the private sector concentrating in administrative, civil and commercial litigation,” the release added.

Cohen was presented the award, formally known as the “Claude Pepper Outstanding Government Lawyer Award,” last week at the Bar’s annual convention held in Boca Raton.

The Division is “a central panel of 65 judges which handles most administrative disputes involving Florida government agencies, as well as workers’ compensation appeals and child support enforcement.”

Cohen “frequently lectures to judges, lawyers, and students on administrative law and practice, is a speaker in the biennial Pat Dore Administrative Law Conference, the oldest and largest administrative law educational conference in Florida,” the release said.

He “has written on numerous administrative and health care law topics,” it said. “He has led several civic and religious organizations (and) has chaired the Leadership Giving component of the Florida State Employees Charitable Campaign.”

Cohen has said he is stepping down after a meeting with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ chief legal advisor, Joe Jacquot.

Jacquot told Cohen “the governor wants to re-examine and re-evaluate the leadership at DOAH, as he has been doing with all agencies,” Cohen told Florida Politics in an interview last month.

The only two applicants to replace Cohen are John McIver, a deputy general counsel to DeSantis, and Kristin Bigham, an assistant deputy general counsel for the Department of Environmental Protection, which ultimately answers to DeSantis.

DeSantis has said he wants judges “who understand (that) the proper role of the courts is to apply the law and Constitution as written, not to legislate from the bench.”

The Governor and Cabinet hire the chief judge; that person hires individual administrative law judges. The division is within the Department of Management Services (DMS), which also reports to DeSantis, but it is independent of DMS control.

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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