MASSACHUSETTS (AP)- A Massachusetts judge who engaged in sexual acts with a social worker in his courthouse chambers announced his resignation Friday, one day after being suspended indefinitely by the state’s highest court.
Judge Thomas Estes said in a letter submitted to the chief justice of the state’s district court system that he would leave the bench at the close of business on June 15.
“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as a district court judge and submit this resignation with great sadness,” Estes wrote.
The letter did not reference the circumstances that led the Supreme Judicial Court to conclude Thursday that Estes’ “grave, willful and repeated wrongdoing,” had damaged the public’s faith in the judiciary.
Tammy Cagle, who worked on the drug court where Estes sat, has accused him in a federal lawsuit of pressuring her into performing oral sex on him and then pushing her out of the drug court when she tried to end the relationship.
Estes said their relationship was consensual and denies harassing Cagle or playing a role in her losing her job. He said Cagle initiated their first encounter and was the one who wanted to continue the relationship.
A former public defender, Estes was nominated to the bench by Democratic former Gov. Deval Patrick in 2014 and had served as first justice of the Eastern Hampshire District Court in western Massachusetts. He was confined to administrative duties last year.
Had Estes sought to continue serving as a judge, he could have been subject to removal proceedings by the state Legislature and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.
The governor considered the judge’s behavior “entirely inappropriate and is pleased he resigned,” Baker spokesman Brendan Moss said.
Estes’ lawyer, David Hoose, had urged the high court to impose a four-month suspension, saying his client already had suffered immensely from the affair becoming public. Hoose told the justices in April that Estes’ relationship with Cagle never impacted his judicial duties and shouldn’t cause him to lose his career.
Cagle’s lawyer, Lenny Kesten, said Thursday his client was gratified by the court’s decision to suspend Estes indefinitely, saying the justice “recognized that no matter how powerful you are, you cannot abuse the public trust.”