Bankruptcy Judge Calls Two People “Apes” in Courtroom

"I should have said they were acting like braying donkeys or unruly kids," U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jean FitzSimon said of calling them "apes."

A U.S. Bankruptcy judge called two people “apes” in her courtroom, the Daily News’ Ronnie Polaneczky writes in her column today.

Polaneczky was at a status hearing where 15 defendants, along with city consumer advocate Lance Haver, could state their complaints in front of Jean FitzSimon, the judge who handled the bankruptcy of Autosource. When Autosource went bankrupt, lender Avangard repossessed some cars it had the titles to — even though the buyers were current on loans and these cars weren’t on a list of autos FitzSimon approved for repo.

FitzSimon said the hearing was so the people who have had their cars repossessed could meet Avangard’s attorney. As a federal bankruptcy judge, FitzSimon had no standing. But the people arriving at the hearing thought this was a chance to get their cars back. Whoops.

A newspaper columnist was in the room. Things got testy. Haver, a city advocate in federal court, kept asking questions despite being told to stop. He was kicked out of the room. Another man who’s currently paying off two car loans spoke, and was told to (in Polaneczky’s words) “pipe down.” He was escorted out soon after. This is when FitzSimon compared his and Haver’s behavior to that of “apes.”

“I shouldn’t have used that word,” FitzSimon told the Daily News. “It just came out. I should have said they were acting like braying donkeys or unruly kids. But they were disrespecting the court, and I was frustrated. I have never had to remove anyone from my courtroom before.”

Polaneczky writes she doesn’t think the word was meant as a racial slur, but she also thinks the behavior of Haver and Jonathan Frissora (the other man she tossed) were not being disruptive enough to be ejected.

[Daily News]