No discipline for Hamilton judge who wore Trump T-shirt while out shopping
An Ontario judge who wore a Donald Trump campaign T-shirt in public won’t be disciplined, according to a letter posted on the Canadian Judicial Council website last month.
Toni Skarica, an Ontario Superior Court judge who previously served as a Progressive Conservative MPP in the former ridings of Wentworth North and Wentworth-Burlington from 1995 to 2000, was spotted wearing a “Make America Great Again” Tshirt by Dundas resident Lorne Warwick while grocery shopping in June 2016.
Warwick, a retired teacher, said that he and his wife immediately recognized Skarica, and they were shocked to see what he called a “flagrant display” of support for a politician who had openly discriminated against Muslims and Mexicans during the campaign.
“I wondered about his ability to independently assess people before the courts,” Warwick said in an interview Monday.
Warwick wrote to the judicial council with a complaint about Skarica’s choice of attire, claiming that it constituted a breach of impartiality rules for judges.
The Canadian Superior Courts Judges’ Association website says that judges must appear to be impartial in both their public and private lives.
When the Toronto Star reached out to Skarica, his office said that he declined to comment.
A letter responding to Warwick’s complaint dated Sept. 2, 2016, was posted on the council’s website late last month. It details Skarica’s defence to the complaint, including that he was wearing the T-shirt as an item of historical memorabilia and that he does not endorse Trump.
The letter states that Skarica put the T-shirt on to show a friend, and later wore it out shopping, but “he does not intend to wear the T-shirt in public in any meaningful way.”
The council was satisfied that Skarica had no meaningful connection to the Trump campaign, and concluded that Warwick’s complaint was “unfounded.”
Skarica is not the only Hamiltonarea judge facing scrutiny for sporting Trump-related attire. Justice Bernd Zabel faces a disciplinary hearing set for Aug. 23 for wearing a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap in court the day after the American election.
Zabel has apologized for the choice, calling it a “misguided” attempt at humour.
While Warwick was hoping for Skarica to be reprimanded, he is satisfied that his complaint was taken seriously.
“I was pleased that they did speak to him and he had to defend himself before the association.”
Johanna Laporte, a spokesperson for the council, said the letter dismissing the complaint had been publicly available before its release on the website in June, since Warwick had published it on his blog, and the correspondence was reported in the media.
It went up on the website a few weeks ago “for ease of reference,” after a lawyer wishing to cite the letter asked for it to be published.
Toni Skarica: Former MPP