Sinning in the workplace

Estes: Extramarital affair shouldn’t cost me my job

Judge Thomas Estes asked the Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday to penalize him for having extramarital sex with a court employee but not to take his job away permanently.

David Hoose, who represented Estes before the SJC, said his client is not the first person — even the first judge, male or female — to have an affair with a coworker. He said most of those judges faced censure but not the loss of their job.

“He has not sinned so severely as it should cost him his career,” Hoose said. “He is not only a good judge, he is a superlative judge, he is an exemplary judge.”

Howard Neff, representing the Judicial Conduct Commission, which is asking that the judge be suspended without pay indefinitely, said Estes fractured public trust by having an eight-month affair with Tammy Cagle. “No amount of good behavior can negate the impact of his conduct on the public perception of the judiciary,” Neff said. “He can never command moral authority of the respect necessary to be a judge in Massachusetts.”

Justice Frank M. Graziano said the court once removed a sitting clerk magistrate for lacking decorum and being “tardy” with decisions. Graziano said it would be difficult to treat Estes more leniently given his transgressions. “The judge sits at the top of the pyramid in the courthouse,” Graziano said.

Of course, former president Bill Clinton sat at the top of the nation’s political pyramid when he engaged in similar behavior with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern, in the late 1990s. Clinton didn’t lose his job.

The Judicial Conduct Commission, in its filing with the court, did not accuse Estes of sexual harassment, but Cagle is suing Estes in federal court alleging just that.

Both Estes and Cagle acknowledge the sexual relationship started at a retreat in November 2016 in Marlboro. After drinking at a bar with other coworkers, the two returned to their rooms but then Cagle called the judge and asked him to fix the TV in her room. Cagle, in her lawsuit, said she was dressed in a T-shirt and sweatpants when Estes came to her room and fixed the TV before pressuring her to perform oral sex. She said the same pattern repeated itself many times over the coming months, with the judge insisting her job could be in jeopardy if word ever got out.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Cagle’s attorney on Tuesday likened Estes to Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused by many women of sexual harassment..

Estes, by contrast, characterized Cagle as the aggressor in the relationship. Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr, quoting a filing by Estes’ lawyer, said Cagle ensnared his client. “She lured him to her room on the pretext that she needed help with her TV. To his great regret, Judge Estes went to her room, where he found Ms. Cagle lying on her bed, clad only in panties and a tee shirt. The television was on.”