University of Windsor logo on the side of the new Stephen and Vicki Adams Welcome Centre, October 2, 2015. (Photo by Mike Vlasveld)

UoW Law Faculty Joins Outcry Against Trump Hat In Hamilton Courtroom

The Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor is adding to the growing number of complaints being sent to the Canadian Judicial Council regarding a Hamilton judge who brought a pro-Donald Trump hat into his courtroom the day after the Republican candidate won the presidency in the US.

“I haven’t heard from one lawyer who thinks this is no big deal,” says Jasminka Kalajedzic, associate dean at the Faculty of Law for the University of Windsor. “Everyone thinks it was, at the very least, an extreme lack of judgement.”

Kalajedzic says the red baseball cap with the “Make America Great Again” slogan written across it is a symbol of the racist and misogynistic language Trump used during the campaign.

She says by making a political statement in court, Justice Bernd Zabel called into question the neutrality of his decision making.

“I think you’d have to have your head in the sand to believe that it’s just four words on a red coloured head gear,” says Kalajedzic. “It definitely is symbolic of a lot of things that are deeply troubling.”

The issue is greater than a judge bringing a hat into a courtroom.

“You take it all together in context and clearly, it’s not a hat. It’s emblematic or a symbol of a particular ideology that is in [the faculty’s] view, certainly in my view, very offensive to a lot of people,” says Kalajedzic.

The implied support of Trump by Zabel bringing the hat into court could jeopardize the confidence of those before him expecting a fair trial or judgement.

“How would a visibly Muslim woman feel in that judge’s courtroom where he’s wearing that hat or knowing the day before he’d been wearing that hat?” says Kalajedzic. “How would she know whether this particular judge agreed with Donald Trump’s statements about Islam and Muslim people? I really respectfully disagree with anybody who says it’s no big deal.”

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Zabel has since apologized for bringing the hat into the courtroom, saying it was a misguided attempt at humour.

University of Windsor law professor David Tanovich had an opinion piece published in the Globe and Mail on Monday calling Zabel’s actions “conduct that has the potential to irreparably shake public confidence in the judiciary if not properly addressed” and adding “it sends a chilling message to sexual assault survivors … and to the diverse population of his region.”

Kalajedzic says Zabel clearly broke the rules.

“A judge couldn’t walk into the courtroom with a Liberal Party of Canada hat on. It is a political statement, which by itself is a problem — it’s a violation of the rules,” says Kalajedzic.

The complaint from the University of Windsor was sent on Monday.

During the American presidential election campaign, Trump called for a temporary ban of Muslim people into the US, the deportation of all undocumented immigrants in the country, and the building of a wall along the US-Mexico border. Trump was also accused of sexual assault and caught on record talking about being able to grab women wherever he wanted.