Controversial Massachusetts judge suspended indefinitely for having sex with a social worker in his courthouse chambers after losing sexual harassment hearing
Judge Thomas Estes, 51, was suspended indefinitely on Thursday for having sex with a social worker in his courthouse chambers
The Supreme Judicial Court said Estes ‘grave, willful and repeated wrongdoing’ has damaged the public’s faith in the judicial system
Tammy Cagle, 47, accused him in a lawsuit of pressuring her into performing oral sex and then banishing her from the drug court when she tried to end the affair
Estes insists Cagle initiated the relationship which was consensual and denies harassing Cagle or playing in a role in her losing her job
Estes is suspended without pay effective June 15, pending a decision by the state legislature and Governor, whether he should be permanently removed from office
Judges Estes is a polarizing figure who created a firestorm in 2016 when he sentenced a former high school athlete to probation after the defendant pled guilty to sexually assaulting two classmates
Exchanging the gavel for the dock: Judge Thomas Estes is seen sitting at an unfamiliar bench in court. in March
After reviewing allegations that Estes engaged in sexual acts with a social worker in his courthouse chambers the state’s highest court ruled Thursday, that the judge will be suspended indefinitely. Estes ultimately may face removal from the bench.
The Supreme Judicial Court said Judge Thomas Estes’ ‘grave, willful and repeated wrongdoing’ has damaged the public’s faith in the judicial system.
‘The sanction we impose is not severe because we seek to punish the judge severely, but because … we seriously question whether he can command the respect and authority essential to the performance of his judicial function,’ the judges wrote.
Social worker Tammy Cagle [photo], filed a lawsuit accusing Estes of pressuring her into performing oral sex and then pushing her out of the court system, when she tried to end the relationship
After deciding that the disgraced judge used his lobby and work email to carry out extramarital trysts with a social worker, the e state’s high court has effectively stripped the judge of his robe. Kicking Thomas H. Estes Jr. 51, out of his $172,000-a-year when they place him on unpaid suspension indefinitely effective June 15 and pending further action as to his future, according to the court’s decision.
Social worker Tammy Cagle, accused the 51-year-old judge in a lawsuit of extorting her into performing sex acts, only to turn around and punish her and threaten her job when she tried to end the liaison.
Defence attorney David Hoose said they are disappointed in the decision and that his client is weighing his options.
Cagle, 47, who worked on the drug court where Estes sat, has accused him in a federal lawsuit of pressuring her into performing oral sex on him and then pushing her out of the drug court when she tried to end the relationship.
Estes says their relationship was consensual and denies harassing Cagle or playing in a role in her losing her job. He says that Cagle initiated their first encounter and was the one who wanted to continue their relationship.
Estes’ lawyer had urged the court for a four-month suspension, saying he has already suffered immensely from the affair becoming public. Estes’ lawyer told the justices in April that Estes’ relationship with Cagle never impacted his judicial duties and shouldn’t cause him to lose his career.
The Supreme Judicial Court said Estes will be suspended without pay effective June 15. The court said the Commission on Judicial Conduct can share documents in the case with lawmakers and the governor, who can decide whether to remove him from the bench.
Judges Estes is a polarizing figure who created a firestorm in 2016 when he sentenced a former high school athlete to probation after the teen pled guilty to sexually assaulting two classmates
Estes, has said that his relationship with Cagle was consensual and that he had nothing to do with her losing her job. Cagle is suing Estes for sexual harassment in federal court. Estes filed a motion in U.S. District Court earlier this month to dismiss the case.
Their affair took place between November 2016 and July 2017.
Estes “admitted that he and Cagle engaged in general discussions regarding the drug court before or after their sexual encounters.”
In addition, the SJC said Estes invited Cagle to his courthouse lobby “for at least several of their sexual encounters” and “used his court email account to communicate with Cagle, including communicating on a strategy to ensure that their text messages would not be seen by his family.
“It is beyond dispute that these egregious, deliberate, and repeated acts of misconduct severely diminished respect in the eyes of the public not only for this judge but also for the judiciary.”
Lawmakers could either impeach Estes or issue a ‘bill of address’ calling for his removal. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who supports Estes’ removal, and the Governor’s Council would both have to sign off on a bill of address to strip Estes from the bench.
It’s only the fourth time the state’s high court has imposed such a sanction on a judge. The last time a Massachusetts judge was removed through a bill of address was Judge Jerome Troy, of the Dorchester District Court, in 1973.
Estes, a former public defender was nominated to the court by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2014. He was the first justice of the Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown before he was confined to administrative duties last year.
He also came under fire in 2016 when he sentenced a former high school athlete to probation after the athlete pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting two classmates. The case drew parallels to that of former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner, who got just six months in jail for a sexual assault conviction.