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Judge Rebuked After Participating in Abortion Protest

June 28, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The city’s judicial oversight commission on Friday rebuked a judge who joined an anti-abortion march in front of the Supreme Court and then presided over a criminal trial of seven fellow protesters.

District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Joseph Michael Hannon, by joining the March for Life parade, showed ″disapproval of the law which he and all other judicial officers are sworn to uphold,″ said a two-page statement issued by the D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure.

Hannon avoided a formal hearing on the matter by permitting disclosure of the commission statement. He had maintained that his participation in the Jan. 22 protest was an exercise of his First Amendment right to voice opposition to the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

But the commission statement, signed by chairwoman Bette L. Catoe, said judges should ″respect and comply with the law″ and act in a way that ″promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.″

In February, Hannon presided in the non-jury trial of seven participants in the march, who had been arrested for carrying the demonstration onto court property. He startled both sides by announcing his participation during the first day of the trial. He continued to preside, but withdrew the next day after his role was questioned.

The commission said it could not determine if the judge should have withdrawn immediately, but is said, ″the better course would have been such disqualification ... lest his conduct create an appearance of prejudgment.″

Hannon, 67, was appointed to the bench 14 years ago by President Nixon. He previously said he regretted his initial failure to disclose his participation in the march, calling it an ″inadvertence″ caused by a lapse of memory. He said he left the march before it reached court property.

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