May 25, 2018 / 9:17 PM / 6 months ago

Massachusetts judge resigns after suspension for courthouse affair

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Massachusetts judge who admitted to engaging in repeated sexual encounters including in his courthouse with a social worker announced his resignation on Friday, a day after the state’s top court suspended him indefinitely.

FILE PHOTO: Judge Thomas Estes listens to arguments before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Nate Raymond/File Photo

Judge Thomas Estes submitted his resignation letter after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday ruled that his “grave, willful and repeated wrongdoing” had damaged the judicial system.

The case against Estes, who presided over a special drug court in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, followed a complaint last year by social worker Tammy Cagle, who claims the judge pressured her into performing oral sex at his home and in court.

According to court papers, their sexual encounters took place from November 2016 to March 2017.

The case has evoked the #MeToo movement, which has prompted women to share experiences of sexual abuse and harassment and exposed men accused of misconduct in fields ranging everywhere from entertainment to politics and business.

In a letter submitted to the chief justice of the state’s district court system, Estes said that he would leave his position on June 15.

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as a district court judge and submit this resignation with great sadness,” Estes wrote. “I appreciate the guidance and support you have offered me.”

Estes’ lawyer, David Hoose, has called the harassment allegations “baseless.” He has contended Estes engaged in a consensual relationship with Cagle as part of an extramarital affair and had sought a four-month suspension.

“Unfortunately, the entire proceedings against him were tainted by her frivolous complaint that she was sexually harassed,” Hoose said in a statement on Friday. “He will continue to defend against that allegation in the federal court.”

In Thursday’s order, the Supreme Judicial Court ordered Estes suspended without pay indefinitely, saying his “misconduct has damaged the esteem of the judicial office in the public’s eye.”

The court also allowed the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct to share records in the case with the legislature and Republican Governor Charlie Baker, who could have decided whether to remove Estes from his position.

Baker “believes his behavior is entirely inappropriate and is pleased he resigned,” said Brendan Moss, a spokesman for the governor.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Tom Brown

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