Saturday, November 12, 2016

Judicial Bias

I was planning a post different from what I am writing today because of a set of circumstances that occurred yesterday, when a friend on Facebook pointed out an article in the Globe about a Hamilton judge who went to court wearing a Trump cap that read, "Make America Great Again."

Given my own encounter with judicial bias last June involving Justice Antonio Skarica, which I recounted in this blog, I decided to write to the reporters listed on the story to tell them about my experience with Toni Skarica and his t-shirt. I was then called by reporter Sean Fine, who briefly interviewed me on the phone.

Here are some excerpts from the article: The first provides the context:
On Wednesday morning, after the U.S. presidential election, Judge Bernd Zabel of the Ontario Court of Justice in Hamilton wore Mr. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign ball cap when he entered his courtroom, a source who was in court told The Globe and Mail. He said the cap signified that it was an historic occasion. He removed the cap and put it on the bench in front of him, the source said, and returned with it after the court’s morning break.

Citing The Globe’s report, law professor Gus Van Harten complained in writing to the Ontario Judicial Council on Friday. He said Judge Zabel’s “childish” conduct cast doubt not only on the fairness of his courtroom but that of the entire Ontario Court of Justice, whose judges sit throughout the province. And he said the judge should at the very least be made to withdraw from cases involving minority groups disparaged by president-elect Trump during the campaign.
Van Harten's disgust and objections mirrored my own when I encountered Skarica:
The case of Ontario Superior Court Justice Antonio Skarica – who wore a Trump “Make America Great Again” T-shirt while out shopping one day last spring – provides an indication of how seriously judicial authorities take such complaints.

Lorne Warwick, a retired teacher from Dundas, Ont., complained to the Canadian Judicial Council, the disciplinary body for federally appointed judges. The CJC referred the complaint to the chair of its conduct committee, Nova Scotia Chief Justice Michael MacDonald. He spoke to Justice Skarica, who told him he had not intended to make a political statement; he had received the T-shirt from his brother and considered it an item of memorabilia. He promised not to wear the shirt in public again, according to a letter from the CJC that Mr. Warwick posted on a blog.

A spokeswoman for the CJC confirmed the authenticity of that letter. “I believe it shows we took the matter seriously, seeking comments from the judge, and carefully considering the matter following Chief Justice MacDonald’s direction,” Johanna Laporte said in an e-mail.

Mr. Warwick said in an interview that he was “astounded” when he and his wife saw Justice Skarica in the Trump T-shirt. “I felt his judgment was very bad.” He said other shoppers who recognized Justice Skarica looked at him “with disgust.” But at least the judge had to account for his “strange behaviour,” he said in his blog post.
I am one who leads a low-key existence and never seek to extol myself or 'build my brand,' as the young are wont to say. However, I write this only as a way to encourage people to keep fighting the good fight, a personal philosophy that I found deeply shaken after the results of Tuesday's presidential election.

I now feel my fighting spirit starting to return.


  1. Once again, Lorne, I am astounded by a judge's lack of judgment.

    1. It really does shake one's confidence in the judiciary, doesn't it, Owen?