Hamilton judge's apology for wearing Trump hat in court isn't enough, councillor says

Matthew Green says a review of Bernd Zabel's conduct still needs to happen. "I can't apologize and get out of a parking ticket."

'I can't apologize and get out of a parking ticket,' says Matthew Green of Bernd Zabel's 'first step'

The slogan "Make America Great Again" has become of a fixture of the Trump campaign. Here, the president-elect puts on his signature "Make America Great Again" hat in Sacramento, Calif. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

A Hamilton city councillor says it's important that the judge who wore a Donald Trump hat in the courtroom has apologized, but he wants to see a judicial conduct review into the actions of Bernd Zabel.

Matthew Green says Zabel's apology in Hamilton court Tuesday is an "important first step." But it doesn't excuse Zabel from an investigation into his actions.

I can't apologize and get out of a parking ticket.- Matthew Green, Hamilton city councillor

"His apology does not give him impunity from the remainder of the process," said Green, who spoke out against the judge's behaviour last week. 

Zabel wore a "Make America Great Again" hat into the courtroom the day after the U.S. election. He walked wearing it, then removed it and placed it on the bench in front of him, the Globe and Mail reported. Then he returned with it after the morning break.

Ontario rules of judicial conduct say judges "should not be influenced by partisan interests, public pressure or fear of criticism. Judges should maintain their objectivity and shall not, by words or conduct, manifest favour, bias or prejudice towards any party or interest."

That led Gus Van Harten, an Osgoode Hall law professor, to file a formal complaint to the Ontario Judicial Council.

"I am very surprised and disappointed that Justice Zabel would bring the court into disrepute so frivolously and in so blatantly a partisan way," Van Harten wrote in his complaint.

He also asked for the judge to remove himself from cases involving women, Mexicans, Muslims and persons with disabilities — all groups who were verbally targeted by Trump during the U.S. presidential election.

The Women's Legal Education and Action Fund also filed a complaint, as well as two other groups.

Zabel made a statement in court Tuesday. 

"What I did was wrong," the Hamilton Spectator quotes Zabel as saying. "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."​

But Green said that's not good enough. 

"I can't apologize and get out of a parking ticket," he said.

"I'm glad that he's confirmed that this indeed happened. I don't buy that this was a joke. If it was, that raises other questions."