Hamtramck Judge Alexis Krot has apologized to an elderly cancer patient she berated and threatened with jail time over some unkempt weeds outside his home. And she said she's reporting herself to a state commission that probes judicial misbehavior.
"I made a mistake," Krot said in a statement shared with the Free Press by the court Thursday. "I acted intemperately. I'm very embarrassed that I did so. 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 has drawn widespread condemnation and media attention over her comments made during an online court hearing last week that was captured on a Zoom video that circulated on social media. A petition drive to remove her from the court has garnered more than 228,000 signatures as of Thursday evening, one of the most popular petitions on Change.org.
Burhan Chowdhury, 72, appeared along with his son for the Jan. 10 hearing on a ticket issued in August over some overgrowth of grass in an area outside his home in Hamtramck.
"You should be ashamed of yourself," Krot told Chowdhury during the hearing that was later posted on Facebook. "If I could give you jail time on this, I would."
She threatened him with jail a second time near the the end of the hearing, saying: "If you come back here, you're going to jail."
During the hearing, Chowdhury sounded sick, wheezing as he spoke.
"I am a cancer patient, very old, ma'am," he said. "I was then very weak. ... I cannot look after this thing."
Photos of the outside of the home were shown during the hearing.
Despite his pleas, Krot kept attacking him, saying she would fine him $100: "Did you see that photo? That is shameful, shameful. The neighbors should not have to look at that."
Krot struck a different tone in her statement, which was dated Jan. 18, printed on 31st District Court letterhead and posted on the court's website. Her apology has not been reported previously.
"When someone appears before me and has made a mistake, I expect them to own up to it," Krot said. "I expect nothing less than myself. No ifs, ands or buts: That is the reason I self reported my behavior to the judicial tenure commission. 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."
Krot's behavior drew criticism from some immigrant advocates who say the incident reflected hostility that some minorities and immigrants face in local courts and from city government officials. Chowdhury is an immigrant from Bangladesh and more than 41% of Hamtramck's residents are immigrants, the highest percentage among cities in Michigan. About half of the city has roots in Bangladesh or Yemen, according to the Census.
Hamtramck drew national attention in November after voters elected its first Muslim mayor and an all-Muslim city council, believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S., but most of the city department officials and employees are not minorities.
The upkeep of city roads, sidewalks and alleyways in Hamtramck has been an ongoing issue on recent years with some urging more enforcement of city codes. But during the mayoral and city council campaigns last year, some said communication between the city and its immigrant residents needs to be improved, such as having city employees or translators who speak their native languages. Instead of just cracking down hard, the city should try to educate and communicate with residents, some candidates said.
Chowdhury and his son could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Contact Niraj Warikoo: email@example.com or Twitter @nwarikoo
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Hamtramck Judge Alexis Krot apologizes to man she scolded over weeds