Hamtramck council censures judge over remarks directed at cancer patient

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Apparently a Hamtramck judge berating an elderly cancer patient for overgrown weeds in his yard didn't sit well with the City Council any more than it did with the tens of thousands who saw the episode in a video that went viral this month.

The Hamtramck council approved a measure Tuesday to censure 31st District Court Judge Alexis Krot after her remarks Jan. 10 dressing down the 72-year-old resident in a clip that sparked widespread condemnation.

The resolution said the judge's action’s “shined a negative light on the city of Hamtramck and tarnished the image” worldwide.

It also called on Krot “to guard against making such biased and insensitive remarks in the future.”

After the 5-0 vote, Mayor Amer Ghalib pointed to the attention the judge's words had garnered.

"I've been getting so many emails from Hamtramck residents, from people outside of Hamtramck, asking us to take action," he said. "And I think this is the most we can do here as a City Council and a city government."

Representatives for Krot and the District Court did not immediately respond Tuesday night to a request for comment.

31st District Court Judge Alexis G. Krot

Krot was recorded in the video addressing Burhan Chowdhury in a scolding manner. He is accused of failing to maintain his yard and faced a fine of $100.

During Chowdhury's Zoom court appearance, the man could be heard struggling to breathe as he explained to Krot that he was "very weak" and unable to clean up the grass that had overtaken the yard of his home.

A ticket had been issued on Aug. 2, 2021, for what Krot later described as "failing to keep the fence, walkway, sidewalk or alley free of trees, leaves" or other items.

The judge called Chowdhury's yard “shameful.”

“If I could give you jail time on this, I would," Krot told Chowdhury at the hearing. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

The comments led to a Change.org petition calling for her removal from the bench. It gained more than 253,000 signatures by late Tuesday.

Amid the furor, the judge apologized in a statement posted on the court’s website last week.

"I made a mistake. I acted intemperately. I'm very embarrassed that I did so," she said. "I apologize to the person who appeared before me and to our entire community for having failed to meet the high standards that we expect of our judicial officers, and that I expect of myself."

Krot, who was appointed by former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in 2016 and elected in 2018, added in the statement that she self-reported her behavior to the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission. 

"When someone appears before me and has made a mistake, I expect them to own up to it," Krot said. "I expect nothing less of myself. … I had no legal duty to report myself to the commission. But I did so because, like apologizing to the community, it was the right thing to do. "I will continue to hold myself to the standards I set for others."

Some residents who spoke at the meeting Tuesday supported censuring Krot.

"That’s obviously deplorable language," Kit Parks told the council. 

Before voting on the censure, Councilwoman Amanda Jaczkowski called on updating the measure to reflect that the council acknowledged Krot's apology but it did not "erase the harm caused to the community or the need for accountability."