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Canadian Judge Faces Possible Discipline for Wearing Trump Cap

In Canada, judges are appointed, not elected, and they are considered largely apolitical, particularly at the lower court levels.

They are forbidden by law from participating in any partisan political activity, including making donations to political parties.

Justice Zabel, who has sat on the bench for 27 years and presided over thousands of cases, said Tuesday that he had not voted in the American election or made any donations to the Trump campaign. He had merely ordered five iconic hats from Amazon as memorabilia and decided to wear one into his courtroom as a joke.

In the courtroom on Nov. 9, he said the hat was “just in celebration of a historic night in the United States. Unprecedented.” Soon after, he removed it from his head but left it on his desk.

Later, once the court session was adjourned, he told a court official that the hat’s “brief appearance” was meant to annoy the rest of the judges because he thought they were Clinton supporters. “I was the only Trump supporter up there, but that’s O.K.,” he said.

By that, he explained on Wednesday before the panel, he did not mean that he supported Mr. Trump’s ideas but rather that he was the rare judge in his courthouse who had predicted that Mr. Trump would win.

After the story was picked up by a national newspaper, the complaints poured in. In one letter, a group of feminist lawyers argued that rape victims would find it difficult to testify before a judge who “has so publicly celebrated the election of an admitted assailant.” The Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association said it was “deeply concerned with how Muslim women in particular would be addressed and treated in Justice Zabel’s courtroom.”

The Canadian Association of Black Lawyers said its members would fear that Justice Zabel would judge their skin color rather than the merits of their cases.

All this was before the recent rally of white nationalists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., which has had huge reverberations in Canada, inspiring a large antihate march in Vancouver, and a counterprotest that turned violent against a white supremacist march in Quebec City last weekend.

“This was an expression of opposition to the campaign rhetoric of Trump at the time and an expression of Canadian differentiation,” Lorne Sossin, dean of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “If anything, it is more political now.”

Judge Zabel, a German refugee himself, said he deeply regretted his decision to wear the hat.

The disciplinary panel’s decision is expected in the coming weeks and could include a range of penalties, from a warning to a recommendation that Judge Zabel be removed from the bench. The Ontario Judicial Council has held only nine disciplinary panels since 1995, not including his. Of those cases, four were dismissed.

Source: NYT > World

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