Judge subject of 81 complaints over Trump hat
A Hamilton judge who wore a Donald Trump campaign hat in the courtroom has been the subject of 81 complaints.
Those grievances over Justice Bernd Zabel wearing a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap while presiding on Nov. 9, 2016 are the subject of a public Ontario Judicial Council hearing this month.
The hearing panel will include an Ontario Court of Appeal judge as chair, an Ontario Court of Justice judge, a lawyer and a community member. The Aug. 23 hearing at St. Andrew’s Club and Conference Centre in Toronto is expected to hear evidence about the allegations and decide whether Zabel is guilty of judicial misconduct.
On Nov. 9, Zabel is alleged to have made comments in court about the U.S. presidential election, which referred to his views and those of judicial colleagues, the hearing notice reads. The U.S. election was held the day before.
A few days later, Zabel issued a public apology, saying he didn’t mean to make a political statement or endorsement. But a transcript of comments the judge made at the end of the day on Nov. 9 obtained by the Toronto Star offered a contrast to his public expression of regret: “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,” Zabel said, according to the transcript.
The hearing panel has the option of dismissing or upholding the complaints. If they’re upheld, Zabel faces a warning, reprimand, order to apologize, measures for education or treatment, suspension with pay for any period, or suspension without pay but with benefits for up to 30 days. The most severe measure would be a recommendation to remove Zabel from office.
Justice Bernd Zabel