A Canadian judge who wore a “Make America Great Again” hat in court the day after Trump’s stunning win has found himself no longer allowed to hear cases. His actions were seen as unbecoming and childish for a judge who is supposed to be impartial.
As Dave Beatty for the CBC writes:
On Nov. 9, the day after Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election, Justice Bernd Zabel walked into a Hamilton courtroom wearing the red cap bearing Trump’s campaign slogan. Zabel then removed it and placed it on the bench in front of him, the Globe and Mail reported. The judge returned with it after the morning break.
Kate Andrew, a spokeswoman for the Ontario Court of Justice, confirmed “Justice Zabel stopped being assigned to preside in court December 21, 2016,” but could not elaborate about Zabel’s future as a judge or whether his suspension is tied to the Trump hat incident.
The events that followed however, make it clear the hat incident was the catalyst to Zabel’s conduct review.
Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Green said at the time that he wanted to see a judicial conduct review of Zabel’s actions.
About a week after the incident, the Hamilton Spectator reported that Zabel apologized in court, saying, “I wish to apologize for my misguided attempt to mark a moment in history by humour in the courtroom following the surprising result in the United States election.”
“His apology does not give him impunity from the remainder of the process,” Green told CBC News at the time.
The Toronto Star reported that Zabel, shortly after the incident, said, “Brief appearance with the hat. Pissed off the rest of the judges because they all voted for Hillary so …”
“I was the only Trump supporter up there, but that’s OK.”
The comment he made about wearing the MAGA hat shortly after the incident shows how he truly felt, and his critics say that it reveals his apology to be insincere– only thrown together because he was reprimanded.
University of Windsor professor David Tanovich told CBC News that Zabel’s remarks amount to “an explicit political statement.”
“His apology also needs to be investigated, because it appears to be misleading since it makes no reference to his statement about being a Trump supporter, and arguably false since his assertion as to his motives is belied by what he later said in court,” Tanovich said.
“It is also questionable whether the apology is genuine in light of the fact that it would appear that his judicial colleagues raised with him the problem with wearing the hat, and rather than come back and apologize, he appeared to gloat over having ‘pissed’ them off.
“There should have been an immediate apology at that time, not a week later after extensive media coverage.”
A number of Zabel’s critics have said these remarks undermine his apology and explanation that the hat was meant to be humorous.
Zabel’s behaviour was also condemned by Gus Van Harten, an Osgoode Hall law professor, who called it “childish” and “clearly unbecoming” of a judge.
Furthermore, University of Windsor law professor David Tanovich told CBC that Zabel’s remarks clearly amount to “an explicit political statement.”
“We are also filing a supplementary complaint to highlight that his in-court Nov. 9 statement is compelling evidence that he wore the Trump hat as a political statement and endorsement of Trump’s values and ideology,” Tanovich said in an email.
The Canadian Judicial Council’s website reads, “Judges should strive to conduct themselves in a way that will sustain and contribute to public respect and confidence in their integrity, impartiality and good judgment.”