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New York judge resigns over controversial Facebook post as investigation concludes
Just six weeks after becoming a local judge in rural Altona, New York in January 2018, Kyle Canning posted the image that would cost him his career.
Canning resigned in June amid a state investigation over a Facebook post he made over a year ago that involved a noose and President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, according to The New York Times. The investigation ended last week, according to the Times, and was “made public on Tuesday.”
Make America great again?
“IF WE WANT TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN WE WILL HAVE TO MAKE EVIL PEOPLE FEAR PUNISHMENT AGAIN,” the image shared by Canning read, according to NBC News. It also featured what the Times‘ Sharon Otterman described as “an image of a noose in front of a black background.”
In August 2018, Canning removed the image when it was brought to his attention that it might be inappropriate. Someone had complained to the New York Commission on Judicial Conduct about the post, and the commission decided to investigate even after the post was removed.
The state government eventually said that Canning conveyed or appeared to convey “racial and/or political bias” and “failed to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary” in sharing the image.
“It doesn’t need to be a noose”
In June, Canning resigned because he couldn’t afford a lawyer or the cost of traveling to New York City to cooperate with the commission’s investigation.
Canning told the Times that he was not a Trump supporter and didn’t intend his comments to be taken that way. “There is not a man that I could despise more than Donald Trump,” Canning, a registered Democrat, said.
The post, Canning said, was not intended to be racist, as the commission had suggested, but to support the death penalty. “It doesn’t need to be a noose. It could have been a gas chamber. It could have been an electric chair,” Canning said.
But the commission wasn’t satisfied with Canning’s explanation of his intentions.
“The noose is an incendiary image with repugnant racial connotations,” Robert H. Tembeckjian, the judicial commission administrator, said in a statement on Tuesday as the case was finalized. “It is the very antithesis of law and justice. For a judge to use the image of the noose in making a political point undermines the integrity of the judiciary and public confidence in the courts.”
“The integrity of the judiciary”
Altona is a small town of 2,900 with two part-time elected justices who convene for a few hours each week to hear cases. Canning said he decided to run for the office when the town supervisor asked him to and it seemed like no one else wanted the job.
In New York state, no law degree is needed to become a judge. Canning’s day job is bread delivery; he completed the five days of required training before he took the job.
But if New York really wants to maintain “the integrity of the judiciary and public confidence in the courts,” perhaps its leaders should take a look at how judges are hired in the first place.
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