Judge Estes quits after suspension for sexual acts at courthouse

  • Judge Thomas Estes presides in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown, Mass. Estes admitted to having an affair with a clinical social worker that included sexual encounters at the courthouse. AP FILE PHOTO

For the Recorder
Published: 5/25/2018 3:26:40 PM

A day after being publicly censured and suspended indefinitely by the state’s highest court for engaging in sexual acts with a social worker in his courthouse chambers, Judge Thomas Estes resigned Friday.

Estes, 50, of Northampton, who served as the presiding judge in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown, admitted he had a sexual relationship with a licensed clinical social worker, Tammy Cagle, who was hired to help launch a specialty court program in Pittsfield. Estes gave his resignation to Chief Judge Paul Dawley, according to a statement from his attorney David Hoose.

The suspension was set to begin June 15. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments in April from the Commission on Judicial Conduct and Hoose on the appropriate punishment for his actions. The commission recommended a public censure and indefinite unpaid suspension to allow the executive and legislative branches time to consider whether Estes should keep his judicial office. Estes and his attorney sought a four-month unpaid suspension.

The SJC’s Thursday ruling found that Estes’s “unwillingness to abide by the standards imposed on his office brought the office of the Judge, and by extension, the judiciary, into disrepute.” Rep. Kate D. Campanale, R-Worcester, filed a resolution in the House of Representatives on the same day the report was released to initiate the impeachment of Estes from his position.

“On behalf of myself and the many members of the bench and bar who have supported him throughout this process, I want to say how disappointed I am that the proceedings against him have concluded in this manner,” Hoose said in the statement. “Judge Estes was not only a good judge, he was an outstanding judge. As I said in my argument before the SJC, any Judge in the Commonwealth would trade his or her judicial evaluation with him. Judge Estes never denied the mistakes that he made in getting involved in a relationship with Tammy Cagle.”

In the statement, Hoose said the “entire proceedings against him were tainted by her frivolous complaint” that Cagle was sexually harassed. The SJC did not rule on those allegations. Cagle has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Springfield.

Hoose called Estes an outstanding judge with a judicial evaluation record that any Judge in the Commonwealth would trade.

“Both Judge Estes and I felt that the penalty for his admitted transgressions should be less severe,” Hoose said. “Ultimately, the SJC thought otherwise. Both of us have too much respect for the Court and the process to comment further. Accordingly, neither Judge Estes nor I will have anything further to say on this matter.”


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