A war of words is breaking out between two young challengers for North Brooklyn’s next Democratic District Leader — and Brooklyn’s judges are in the middle of it.
Less than a week after outgoing Greenpoint District Leader Steve Cohn praised Brooklyn’s judges during his political club’s annual fundraiser, insurgent candidate Lincoln Restler slammed both Cohn and his son, Warren, for perpetuating “cronyism” and favoritism within the Democratic Party.
Warren Cohn, 23, is hoping to succeed his father, who declined to seek re-election for the largely political seat that he has held for 27 years. Despite the different Cohn running for the seat, Restler, 26, continued to attack the father for his close ties to the county’s judges.
”Of course Steve Cohn loves Brooklyn’s judiciary,” said Restler. “Brooklyn’s highly politicized judicial selection process has allowed Steve Cohn to profit greatly as the longtime secretary of the Brooklyn Democratic Party with a key role in selecting judges, and a lawyer in the Downtown Brooklyn courts system who was at one time the largest single recipient of courthouse patronage.”
Warren Cohn declined to respond directly, saying, “It doesn’t really have anything to do with me. I’m running [not Steve Cohn].”
He did call Restler’s charges against his father “old news”
“It’s who I am, I was born into it,” said Cohn. “He’s my dad. I pray that everyone in this world has a relationship with their dad similar to the one I have with my father.”
But Restler did not want to let the issue go, saying that “merit, rather than political affiliations, must be the critical factor in the judicial selection process and our democracy.”
Steve Cohn, himself the son of a former Williamsburg assemblyman, has a long history in the county’s Democratic Party.
As its executive secretary, Cohn helped decide who became a judge and who didn’t in Brooklyn. As a reward for his efforts, his law firm collected several hundred thousand dollars over the years in court appointment fees.
Cohn, a one-time candidate for City Council, was embroiled in a minor scandal in 2003 when several Brooklyn judges told investigators that Cohn suggested that they consider certain lawyers when making court appointments such as referee jobs and receiverships, and gave them a list of politically connected attorneys to guide them.
At the same time, law enforcement officials were moving to arrest then-party chairman Clarence Norman for shaking down judicial candidates in exchange for pledging political support.