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Justice Kogan remembered for championing court communications

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'He said he would like to be remembered as a man of vision, an advocate for the rights of individuals, and one who respected the dignity of his fellow human beings with a deep understanding of the human condition'

Chief Justice Gerald Kogan

Chief Justice Gerald Kogan

Former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald Kogan died in Miami on Thursday, March 4, 2021. He was 87 and was Florida’s 73rd justice since statehood was granted in 1845.

In the 1990s, Justice Kogan, a former prosecutor, private practitioner, and circuit court judge, earned international praise for his “Access Initiative” — which used the rapidly developing internet to make Florida’s Supreme Court and court system more transparent and accessible to the public.

He pushed for courts to provide their records freely to the public on the World-Wide Web. Kogan also organized the first live broadcasts of Florida Supreme Court arguments in 1997, available on cable TV and then internet livestream.

That effort paid off royally three years later when the court’s sessions riveted the nation as it watched live as justices heard a series of arguments and cases in the wake of the contested 2000 presidential election.

Novel when Kogan instituted them, such broadcasts and online access to court records are now standard around the nation.

Among the reforms he pushed were simultaneously publishing Supreme Court opinions online when they were released, supporting self-help and neighborhood justice centers — including the first center in Tallahassee — as ways to help pro se litigants and those who could not afford lawyers, redrafting Supreme Court-approved forms to make them more accessible by pro se parties, and recognizing the increased role the internet would play in handling legal matters and providing information about the court system.

Justice Kogan receiving his award

FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE GERALD KOGAN, center, received a lifetime achievement award from the Florida Court Public Information Officers. As chief justice from 1996-98, Kogan recognized the role that court communications would play in the 21st century and launched a cluster of programs designed to improve public access to the state courts. Pictured with Kogan are Craig Waters, the court’s public information officer, and 18th Circuit PIO Michelle Kennedy.

The highly regarded Justice Teaching Institute began under his tenure as chief justice. And one change he envisioned has become near-fully realized in the COVID-19 pandemic — the ability of lawyers to attend hearings electronically rather than wasting time traveling to and from courthouses.

Justice Kogan was appointed as a circuit judge in 1980 by former Gov. Bob Graham, and in 1984 became the administrative judge of the Criminal Division. He held that post until he was appointed to the Supreme Court on January 30, 1987.

He retired from the Supreme Court on December 31, 1998, and served as chief justice from 1996-98.

Born in New York City, Kogan moved with his parents and brother to Miami Beach in 1947 and remained a Florida resident for the rest of his life. He graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School and attended the University of Miami, where he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and his law degree.

Upon graduation from law school, Justice Kogan entered the United States Army. He graduated from the Army Intelligence School and served on active duty as a special agent in the Counterintelligence Corps.

Upon his discharge, he entered the private practice of law in Miami. In 1960, he was appointed an assistant state attorney in the Dade County State Attorney’s Office and rose to the rank of chief prosecutor of the Homicide and Capital Crimes Division. He worked on a variety of high-profile cases, almost always successfully.

In 1967, he left the State Attorney’s Office to resume private practice, specializing in criminal trial and appellate law. During this time, he was a prosecutor on behalf of The Florida Bar in attorney disciplinary cases.

Justice Kogan was special counsel to the Florida Legislature’s Select Committee on Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, working for then state Representative and future Attorney General and Third District Court of Appeal Judge Robert Shevin.

While on the Supreme Court, Justice Kogan chaired the Gender Bias Study Commission, the Judicial Council and its successor the Judicial Management Council, and co-chaired the Bench/Bar Commission and the Bench/Bar Implementation Commission.

He was known for writing thoughtful, incisive opinions on the Supreme Court that were accessible to lawyers and nonlawyers. In his chief justice profile that appeared in The Florida Bar Journal in 1996, Justice Kogan’s wife, Irene, recounted that she once asked him how he would like to be remembered.

“He said he would like to be remembered as a man of vision, an advocate for the rights of individuals, and one who respected the dignity of his fellow human beings with a deep understanding of the human condition,” she recalled. “He always says you cannot be a good lawyer or a good judge unless you understand the human condition.”

Kogan is survived by his wife, Irene, and his children, Robert Kogan and Karen Kogan Rosenzweig. Arrangements for services are pending.

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