This week’s question:
Should a judge who enters his courtroom wearing political paraphernalia such as a Donald Trump baseball cap be removed from the bench?
The fundamental values that underscore our judicial system is that judges are independent and impartial. This means that even though every human being possesses a certain set of biases, judges are able to put aside theirs and apply the law independently of any types of pressure- whether political, social or economic; and that they are able to treat everyone equally before and under the law. When an ordinary man enters a courtroom, he believes that he will find justice. However, when a judge brings his preferences to the courtroom, he undermines the fundamental values of the judiciary. How could I as a Muslim woman enter Justice Bernd Zabel’s courtroom and feel that I may receive justice when he promotes Trump values? It is one thing to believe a certain value system. It is quite another to shout it from the rooftops. From my perspective, he should be removed from the bench. As a judge he knew or ought to have known that he cannot make his political preferences known. When he became a judge he agreed to uphold these values and when he chose to flagrantly violate this contract, he brought the administration of justice into disrepute.
Selwyn R. Baboolal
Judges occupy a very high position in the community. They are looked up to and so their actions, words and public displays are subject to a higher scrutiny. As such, they should be expected to conduct themselves at a higher standard than the average Joe. For our system to function, judges are expected to be impartial and not prone to populous influence. This is especially true when they are in the courtroom. Therefore, it is my opinion that a judge who wears a Trump baseball camp demonstrates a serious lack of judgment. That being said, this type of conduct does not warrant a judge being removed from the bench. He should be reprimanded.
When a member of the public interacts with those in the sphere of civil authority, one expects to be treated with utmost courtesy and with scrupulous fairness. Anything less brings our entire law and justice system into question and compromises our democracy. Any action or demonstration by those in authority over us that may even hint of a lack of neutrality is therefore not acceptable and must be dealt with swiftly and decisively. We would not tolerate a law enforcement officer, judge or teacher wearing a Nazi uniform even at a Halloween party. So why should we accept the behaviour of a judge who openly wears paraphernalia that represents a party that calls for bigotry, xenophobia, racism and misogyny ? The thought that someone who makes decisions daily that affect our very lives, exhibiting even in jest, an intolerance for those with whom he comes in contact is not acceptable and must be dealt with accordingly. These individuals cannot be allowed to sit in judgement of those whom he thinks are inferior or less human.
Leroy A. Crosse
Judges often talk about “My Court” as though it is their personal possession. But the courts belong to all the people. The judge is no more than a referee between the contesting parties. A powerful referee but still a referee in the game. If a citizen or law clerk had brought a hat into the court with a political message that the judge was opposed to, he would likely find that person in contempt of court. Judges can also be in contempt of court. I don’t believe that this lapse in judgment necessarily indicates that the judge will rule a certain way in future cases. Indeed, it is good that we know how the judge feels about major political issues but he can voice his opinion outside the court like any other citizen. He should not be removed from the bench but he deserves censure for lowering the high esteem in which the courts should be held.