A Hamilton judge who wore a Trump hat in court following the U.S. election has admitted to committing judicial misconduct. Justice Bernd Zabel faced his disciplinary hearing today in Toronto where he testified saying he put on the hat as a joke.
It was the morning after the U.S. Election, November 9th 2016. 69 year old Justice Bernd Zabel decided to enter a courtroom wearing a baseball cap inscribed with the phrase “Make America Great Again.” According to court transcripts Zabel said quote “Just in celebration of a historic night in the United States.” Zabel admits to wearing it for one minute before placing the hat in front of him for the entire court to see.
Presenting counsel Linda Rothstein says a judge is not allowed to express their political views in court and this move jeopardises the public’s confidence in the system.
After court was adjured on that November day a deputy crown attorney spoke with Zabel saying ” You’ve lost your hat”. Zabel, not knowing the court mics were still picking up his voice said quote: “Brief appearance for the hat. Pissed off the rest of the judges because they all voted for Hillary, so I was the only Trump supporter up there.”
“He’s not a Trump supporter, he never has been. You’ve heard that on the record.” Ricardo Federico, defence attorney.
Today Zabel testified saying he does not associate himself with the idea of misogyny, bigotry or racism. He was only gloating that he predicted the outcome of the election.
In total, 81 complaints were filed and over 60 others letters of support for Zabel . In Toronto, Zabel testified saying he’s having a hard time finding the words to express his regret.
The judge apologized in a courtroom on November 15th to a small audience there but Rothstein says Zabel did not go far enough to restore public confidence.