Toronto, September 12, 2017 – The Hearing Panel of the Ontario Judicial Council issued its decision in the complaint against Justice Bernd Zabel, who wore a “Make America Great Again” hat while presiding. The South Asian Bar Association of Toronto (SABA Toronto) filed a complaint with the OJC demanding that Justice Zabel be removed from the bench. SABA Toronto is disappointed by the OJC’s decision, which suspends Justice Zabel instead of removing him.

Even though the Hearing Panel found that Justice Zabel’s conduct deserved censure, it chose not to remove him, which was the only acceptable outcome. Judges by virtue of their position are supposed to exercise proper judgement. Justice Zabel did not do so in this situation. The reprimand does little to restore the public confidence in the administration of justice. It is the equivalent to slap on the hand.

Notwithstanding the Hearing Panel’s finding to the contrary, the public in Hamilton cannot have confidence that Justice Zabel will be impartial. Muslim and South Asian lawyers and litigants, in particular, will always wonder if Justice Zabel’s rulings are informed by his appreciation for a President who believes they should be barred from Western society. The courts in Hamilton serve a diverse population and they deserve to have confidence in the judges that preside there.

“Justice Zabel chose to wear the symbol of an avowed racist and sexist while presiding over our public courtrooms, and did so because he thought it was funny” says Ranjan Agarwal, Past President. “Litigants and lawyers alike cannot appear before him without fearing that he sympathizes with the President’s view, and they cannot get and will not get a fair hearing from him. It is disappointing that the Hearing Panel didn’t see this obvious conflict and remove Justice Zabel immediately.”

SABA Toronto filed a complaint with the Ontario Judicial Council about Zabel’s behavior.

About SABA Toronto

The South Asian Bar Association of Toronto is the GTA’s premier legal organization dedicated to promoting the objectives of South Asian members of the legal profession. Members of SABA Toronto include lawyers that self-identify as South Asian or are of South Asian origin, and lawyers that advocate on issues of relevance to the South Asian community. Our membership is dynamic, ever-expanding and includes lawyers from large and small law firms, sole practitioners, government agencies and departments, nonprofit organizations, and corporations. Members of the judiciary, academics and law students also form an integral part of SABA Toronto.

If you want more information contact:
Ranjan Agarwal – sabatoronto@gmail.com