A Canadian judge was suspended from his bench after wearing a hat with Donald Trump’s slogan written on it during a court hearing last November of 2016.
The suspension was made last Tuesday, September 12, 2017 by the Ontario Judicial Council. According to them, the conduct of Justice Bernd Zabel is a serious case that could have caused his removal from the judiciary. Zabels act was an “inexplicable act of judicial misconduct” from a respected person, and a judge himself, said the council.
The suspension is effective for 30 days.
“His conduct on Nov. 9, 2016, was completely at odds with the exemplary judge he has been for the past 27 years. We are satisfied that Justice Zabel does not hold any of the discriminatory views that the complainants attribute to Donald Trump,” the council panel wrote.
“Justice Zabel’s conduct that day gave rise to a perception by many that he was a Trump supporter and that he agreed with Trump’s views and policies. In doing so, he violated a fundamental principle of judicial ethics and, particularly in view of the controversy surrounding Trump’s campaign, engaged in serious misconduct,” it added.
Since then, the council have been receiving 81 complaints about the incident. The complaints were pointing out Trumps racist remarks and questioning the dignity of Zabel’s courtroom.
Zabel has not been assigned to cases since January this year.
The council however assured the public that Zabels “single aberrant and inexplicable act” doesn’t make Zabel a bad judge. In a statement, the council said The evidence demonstrates that he is open-minded and impartial and that he does not exhibit any of the polarized, misogynistic, racist or homophobic views many of the complainants attribute to Donald Trump,” the council noted.
Zabel in defense told during a hearing last month that his only intention in wearing the hat was just to lighten up the mood in the court room that day. He said that it was a misguided attempted humor and clarified that he is neither a supporter of Trump nor his policies.
According to his testimony, Zabel only realized after the hearing that the people actually believed that he was showing support for Trump and his policies.
In the agreed statement of facts (picture above) during the August 23 disciplinary hearing of his case, it wrote that Zabel was wearing a red cap with a text written “Make America Great Again” (picture on the right)
when he entered the court room that November day and wore it for about a minute which he said was just “in celebration of a historic night in the United States”, he told the people in that courtroom.
He however admited that he broke the rules.
A week after, Zabel made a courtroom apology but complaints still reached the office of the council.
Zabel is the most senior judge in Hamilton, serving as a judge for an unblemished 27 years and have heard thousands of cases. Zabel’s
lawyer said, the judge is eager to go back to work.