Judge’s fate in high court’s hands

  • Judge Thomas Estes in Eastern Hampshire District Court in 2016. The state Supreme Judicial Court is hearing a case that will decide on Estes’ punishment. He has admitted he engaged in a sexual relationship inside his courthouse lobby with a colleague.

For the Recorder
Published: 4/24/2018 4:38:20 PM

By EMILY CUTTS

@ecutts_HG

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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EASTERN HAMPSHIRE DISTRICT COURT MASSACHUSETTS SUPREME COURT

BOSTON — Will the public be able to trust the administration of justice if Judge Thomas H. Estes is allowed to keep his judgeship? What is the appropriate punishment for the judge who admitted to having sexual relations inside his courthouse lobby with a colleague?

Those were the questions at hand Tuesday morning as attorneys argued before six members (one attending the hearing via a livestream) of the state’s supreme judicial court in Boston.

Estes, who served as the presiding judge in Eastern Hampshire District Court, admitted he engaged in a sexual relationship with a licensed clinical social worker who was hired to help launch a specialty court program in Pittsfield. The social worker, Tammy Cagle, was removed from her position at Behavioral Health Network Inc. last spring.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended a public censure and indefinite unpaid suspension to allow for the executive and legislative branches time to consider whether Estes should keep his judicial office. Estes and his attorney have recommended a four-month unpaid suspension.

For an hour, the justices asked questions of attorney Howard V. Neff, III, who represented the commission, and Estes’ attorney David Hoose, as the two presented their cases.

Neff told the justices that the case was without factual precedent and unless the court makes it absolutely clear that this type of conduct will not be tolerated there was little hope that public trust would be restored.

Hoose argued that Estes engaged in conduct worthy of sanction but it was not severe enough to terminate his career, and that the relationship with Cagle had no effect on his decision making in the specialty drug court where the two both worked.


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