Acting Judge, District Court of New South Wales, 31/05/1881 - 28/04/1882
Acting Chairman, Court of Quarter Sessions, New South Wales, 31/05/1881 - 28/04/1882
Acting Judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 19/07/1895 - 09/09/1896
Puisne Judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 10/09/1896 - 05/01/1912
President, Court of Arbitration, New South Wales, 01/04/1902 - 02/07/1905
Henry Emanuel Cohen was born at Port Macquarie on 1 December 1840, the son of Abraham Cohen, a newspaper proprietor, and his wife Sophie nee Cohen. The family moved to Sydney in 1848 and then to Goulburn in 1855. Henry was educated at private schools in Sydney and Goulburn. In 1856, at the age of 16, he started work as a clerk at David Cohen and Company, first at Sydney and then at West Maitland, a position he held until 1864. With his brother George, Henry next opened a store at Bathurst trading as Cohen and Company, but the business closed in June 1867. (1)
Henry Cohen studied law at Middle Temple, London, from 29 October 1868 and was called to the Bar on 6 June 1871. Leaving London in September to return to Sydney, he was shipwrecked at Galle, Sri Lanka, on 1 November 1871 after boarding the steamer 'Rangoon' for Australia. The survivors eventually arrived at Melbourne, Victoria, on 28 November per the ship 'Behar'. He was admitted to the New South Wales Bar in Sydney on 15 December 1871 and mainly worked in commercial and equity law, and to a lesser extent the Admiralty jurisdiction. (2)
Cohen had an interest in politics. Standing on a platform of public, secular and compulsory education and of land reform, he was a member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales for West Maitland, from 21 December 1874 to 9 November 1880. He was re-elected on 31 October 1877 and 28 December 1877, but was defeated at the election of 25 November 1880. He stood again at the election of 7 December 1882 and served till 7 October 1885. He was Colonial Treasurer in the Farnell Ministry from 18 December 1877 to 20 December 1878 and Minister of Justice in the Stuart Ministry from 5 January 1883 to 6 October 1885. He declined a seat in the Legislative Council. (3)
Cohen had a long judicial career. Appointed a magistrate of the Colony of New South Wales on 31 May 1881, he heard his first case as an Acting District Court Judge and Chairman of Quarter Sessions for the Metropolitan and Hunter District on 25 July. His last case was on 28 April 1882. He is reported to have resigned because he found the District Court too limited. During a leave of absence by Justice Joseph George Long Innes, Cohen was appointed an Acting Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales from 19 July 1895 for six months. This was extended to 19 July 1896, then to 3 September and finally to 18 January 1896. However before the term expired he was appointed a Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court from 10 September 1896. (4)
Between 27 July 1901 and 30 April 1902 Cohen presided over compensation cases for property resumed under the Darling Harbour Wharves Resumption Act, 1900 (Act No.10, 1900). Section 6 of the Act required compensation cases against the government under this Act to be brought in the Supreme Court and tried without jury by a Supreme Court Judge and two District Court judges. (5)
The Industrial Arbitration Act, 1901 (Act No.59, 1901) established the Court of Arbitration to stabilise relations between employers and employees. The Court was made up of a President, who was a Supreme Court judge, and two members, one representing the employers and one the employees. On 26 March 1902 Cohen was appointed the President of the Court of Arbitration. The members' three year term commenced on 1 April 1902. Cohen retained his position as a Supreme Court judge as it was expected that the Arbitration Court would only occupy half his time. This did not prove the case and the workload grew while government support waned. Cohen sought to resign the position when his term expired on 31 March 1905, but agreed to stay until a replacement could be found. In June 1905 Cohen again sought to resign and temporary legislation was passed allowing a District Court judge, Charles Gilbert Heydon, to replace him on 3 July 1905. Cohen returned to the Supreme Court bench. (6)
Cohen was active in the community. Organisations that he was involved with include the Sydney Certified Denominational School (treasurer 1876-1885); the York Street (Sydney) Synagogue (board member from 1874); the Great Synagogue (board member 1874-1912), vice-president 1883-84, 1887-88, 1891-92, 1901-1903, and president 1885-86); the Sydney Hebrew Philanthropic and Orphan Society (honorary secretary), the Moses Montefiore Jewish Home (from 1874, committee member, treasurer); the NSW Board of Jewish Education and its predecessors (president, vice-president, council member), the local branch of the Anglo-Jewish Association (president 1901-1903); the Hospital Saturday Fund, Sydney (chairman of the Board of Directors 1894-1911); and the St John Ambulance Association (president). (7)
In December 1910 Cohen took leave of absence from the Supreme Court. Leaving Sydney in March 1911, he visited England, France and Germany. He died at sea whilst returning to Sydney aboard the SS 'Friedrich der Grosse' on 5 January 1912 and is buried at Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney. He was survived by his wife, Sophie nee Frank, whom he married on 15 July 1884, and their two sons. (8)
1. JH Heaton, Australian Dictionary of Dates and Men of the Time, Sydney, George Robertson, 1879, pp.40-41; Philip Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography, London, Hutchinson and Co, 1892, pp.100-101; Fred Johns, Johns's Notable Australians and Who's Who in Australasia, Melbourne, George Robertson and Company, 1906, p.49; 1908, p.103; 1912, p.8; DJ Benjamin, 'Henry Emanuel Cohen', Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal, Vol.2, 1944-48, pp.525-6; George F H Bergman, 'Cohen, Henry Emanuel (1840-1912)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition, http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A030409b.htm (cited 11 January 2008); Philip Charles Cohen, 'The Hon. Justice Henry Emanuel Cohen', http://genealogy.metastudies.net/ZDocs/HCohen/HP050-3.HTM (cited 4 February 2009).
2. Philip Mennell, op.cit.; JH Heaton, op.cit.; Joseph Foster, Men-at-the-Bar: a biographical hand-list of the members of the various inns of court...., London, Reeves and Turner, 1885, p.92; The Times, 27 November 1871, p.6C; 29 December 1871, p.3B; Supreme Court; NRS 13664, Roll of Barristers and Solicitors, 1824-1876; Fiche 852, p.11A; DJ Benjamin, 'Henry Emanuel Cohen', op.cit., pp.526-8; Andrew Moore, 'Henry Emanuel Cohen 1902-1905', Chapter 3 in Greg Patmore (ed), Laying the Foundations of Industrial Justice: the presidents of the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW 1902-1998, Sydney, Federation Press, 2003, p.67.
3. George F H Bergman, 'Cohen, Henry Emanuel (1840-1912)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, op.cit.; Fred Johns, op.cit., 1906, p.49; 'Mr Henry Emanuel Cohen [Former Member], New South Wales Parliament website http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/members.nsf/V3ListFormerMembers (cited 3 February 2009); 'NSW Elections - Candidate Index - 12', New South Wales Election results 1856-2007, http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/resources/nswelectionsanalysis/CandidateIndexes/CandidateIndex12.htm (cited 4 February 2009); Cyclopedia of New South Wales, Sydney, McCarron, Stewart and Company, 1907, Modbury, SA, Archive CD Book Australia Pty Ltd, 2007, pp.299-300.
4. New South Wales Law Almanac, Sydney, NSW Government Printer, 1882, p.22; 1912, p.23; New South Wales Government Gazette, No.217, 3 June 1881, p.3007; No.499, 2 December 1881, p.6241; No.487, 20 July 1895, p.4735; No.59, 24 January 1896, p.567; No.546, 15 July 1896, p.4871; No.594, 29 July 1896, p.5219; No.729, 12 September 1896, p.6395; DJ Benjamin, 'Henry Emanuel Cohen', op.cit., p.537; New South Wales Law Reports, Sydney, Hayes Brothers, Vol.XVI, 1895; Vol.XVII, 1896; State Reports New South Wales, Sydney, Law Book Company of Australasia Ltd, Vol.XII, 1912.
5. George F H Bergman, 'Cohen, Henry Emanuel (1840-1912)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, op.cit.; NRS 5790, Notebooks: Resumption Cases [Justice H E Cohen], 1901-1902 [2/2692-94]; Darling Harbour Wharves Resumption Act, 1900 (Act No.10, 1900), Section 6.
6. 'Agency Detail' [Agency No.471, Court of Arbitration], Archives Investigator, http://investigator.records.nsw.gov.au/Entity.aspx?Path=\Agency\471 (cited 5 February 2009); New South Wales Gazette, No.234, 27 March 1902, p.2470; Andrew Moore, 'Henry Emanuel Cohen 1902-1905', op.cit., pp.69, 76-77.
7. DJ Benjamin, 'Henry Emanuel Cohen', op.cit., pp.529, 533, 540-41, 549; Fred Johns, op.cit.; George F H Bergman, 'Cohen, Henry Emanuel (1840-1912)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, op.cit.; Philip Charles Cohen, 'The Hon. Justice Henry Emanuel Cohen', op.cit.
8. ibid; DJ Benjamin, 'Henry Emanuel Cohen', op.cit., pp.539, 555.