Canadian judge, Justice Bernd Zabel, was given a 30-day suspension with pay after wearing the infamous red “Make America Great Again” hat made famous by President Donald Trump’s campaign, The Hill reports.
The decision, according to The Hill, comes from the Ontario Judicial Council panel after holding a hearing to look into complaints received about the judge wearing the hat the day after Trump’s presidential victory.
The concern was, according to The National Post, that Zabel did not adhere to being impartial and nonpartisan, thus committing judicial misconduct.
“What would a reasonable member of the public think upon seeing Justice Zabel enter the courtroom wearing Trump’s signature red ‘Make America Great Again’ hat and state that he did so ‘in celebration of an historic event’?” the panel asked, The National Post reports. “A reasonable member of the public would think that Justice Zabel was making a political statement and endorsing Donald Trump’s campaign.”
Zabel did admit to wearing the hat as a joke, and has since apologized for his actions. However, several of his colleagues came to his defense.
Defense lawyer Michael Wendl, who testified at the panel’s hearing, said in defense of Zabel, “It is my view that Justice Zabel was joking. In fact, I was joking with him. It is my view that Justice Zabel’s conduct was likely just a byproduct of the collegial atmosphere that exists in Hamilton…,” The National Post reports.
However, in the end, it was Zabel’s track record that ultimately saved his job.
Retired Crown attorney Lidia Narozniak, who also testified at the hearing, said that she and Zabel worked together on a number of difficult cases, including sexual assault and domestic violence, and Zabel always “conducted himself gracefully” regardless of who was in front of him, The National Post reports.
“Whatever Justice Zabel may have thought about the U.S. presidential election, and however serious his actions … his record on the bench and his reputation with his judicial colleagues and the bar demonstrates that he is an entirely fair-minded and impartial judge who is dedicated to the highest ideals of his calling,” the panel said, according to The Hill.
Now Zabel must wait 30 days before resuming his position.