A lead news article on the front page of the June 3 edition of the Charleston Gazette-Mail is titled “Justice sues Virginia bank.” The article reports that Gov. Jim Justice, members of his family and the companies they manage (collectively referred to as the “Plaintiffs” or the “Justices”) filed a lawsuit on June 1 in the United States District Court in Beckley against Carter Bank & Trust and the bank’s board of directors seeking direct and consequential damages of not less than approximately $421 million, including trebling of that amount and punitive damages.
The lawsuit consists of a 34-page complaint, which alleges seven claims in support of the damages sought.
In addition to being of local interest because of the names of the plaintiffs, the lawsuit would be of special interest to many Charleston residents and Gazette-Mail subscribers, because the Justices are represented by the New York City-headquartered law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. It’s one of the nation’s most highly respected national and international law firms, with 13 offices and over 700 attorneys.
Of more specific interest to these Charleston residents is that Sullivan & Cromwell’s lead counsel representing the Justices in the lawsuit is H. Rodgin Cohen, the senior chairman of that firm and a prominent corporate lawyer whose practice focuses on commercial banking, and who has been described by peers and clients as “arguably the preeminent financial services attorney in the industry and widely hailed for his unparalleled experience and judgment.”
Now to the central feature of why I am writing this op-ed: “Rodge” Cohen, as he is known, was born in 1944 in the Fort Hill section of Charleston, the son of Louis and Bertie (Rodgin) Cohen. His father ran drugstores, and his mother, a native of Bluefield, was a high school teacher in her earlier years.
Bertie Cohen, who died in 2011 at age 94, came to Charleston in 1942 and, in her ensuing years here, became one of the city’s most prominent and endearing civic and philanthropic residents. Bertie was the first woman to chair the United Way of Charleston and the board at Highland Hospital, was past president of the Community Council, the Children’s Theater, the Hadassah and Temple Israel Sisterhood. She also chaired the Committee on Aging and was a member of the Girl Scouts of America.
Bertie received various awards for her community service, including the Distinguished West Virginian Award bestowed by then-Gov. Jay Rockefeller and the Spirit of the Valley Award from the YMCA.