Trump hat judge facing new complaint after reports he voiced support for Trump in court

A Hamilton judge who wore a Donald Trump "Make America Great Again" hat in court is facing another complaint after reports he also voiced his support for the U.S. president-elect in the courtroom.

Judge's apology for wearing 'Make America Great Again' hat also called into question

President-elect Donald Trump puts on his signature 'Make America Great Again' hat while on the campaign trail. A Canadian judge who wore a similar hat faces new complaints over reports he expressed support for Trump in the courtroom. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

A Hamilton judge who wore a Donald Trump "Make America Great Again" hat in court is facing another complaint after reports that he also voiced his support for the U.S. president-elect in his courtroom later that same day.

The University of Windsor's law faculty is about to file a second complaint with the Ontario Judicial Council over Justice Bernd Zabel, after the Hamilton judge spoke about Trump in court on Nov. 9.

"Brief appearance with the hat. Pissed off the rest of the judges because they all voted for Hillary so..." reads a transcript of Zabel's comments from court, according the Toronto Star.

"I was the only Trump supporter up there, but that's OK."

University of Windsor professor David Tanovich told CBC News that Zabel's remarks amount to "an explicit political statement."

The university previously filed a complaint about Zabel wearing a Trump hat in court that same day, the day after the election. Zabel is currently facing complaints from other groups, as well.

"We are also filing a supplementary complaint to highlight that his in-court November 9 statement is compelling evidence that he wore the Trump hat as a political statement and endorsement of Trump's values and ideology," Tanovich said in an email.

There should have been an immediate apology at that time, not a week later after extensive media coverage.- David Tanovich, University of Windsor professor

According to the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC), the most important qualification for a judge is the ability to make "independent and impartial decisions."

"Judges should strive to conduct themselves in a way that will sustain and contribute to public respect and confidence in their integrity, impartiality and good judgment," the CJC's website reads.

Zabel denied a request for an interview through the Ontario Court of Justice Tuesday, but last month Zabel made a statement in court saying that wearing the hat was wrong.

"I wish to apologize for my misguided attempt to mark a moment in history by humour in the courtroom following the surprising result in the United States election," the Hamilton Spectator quoted Zabel as saying.

Tanovich says Zabel's apology is undermined by the statements he reportedly made in support of Trump. 

"His apology also needs to be investigated, because it appears to be misleading since it makes no reference to his statement about being a Trump supporter, and arguably false since his assertion as to his motives is belied by what he later said in court," Tanovich said.

"It is also questionable whether the apology is genuine in light of the fact that it would appear that his judicial colleagues raised with him the problem with wearing the hat, and rather than come back and apologize, he appeared to gloat over having 'pissed' them off.

"There should have been an immediate apology at that time, not a week later after extensive media coverage."



Adam Carter


Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.