More than some 160,000 people have signed an online petition on Change.org to remove Judge Alexis G Krot who lambasted a 72-year-old cancer patient for failing to clean his overgrown lawn.
Bangladeshi American citizen Burhan Chowdhury told the judge during a virtual Michigan state court appearance over Zoom last week that he has had a difficult time maintaining his property in suburban Detroit since he was diagnosed with cancer three years ago.
In her judgment, USA 31st District Judge Alexis G Krot had no sympathy for him. Instead, she shamed the cancer patient for the neighbourhood blight in Hamtramck, Michigan and told him she would sentence him to jail if she could."
After issuing Chowdhury a $100 fine for failing to keep up with home maintenance, Krot called the amount of grass on his walkways "totally inappropriate." When Chowdhury reiterated that he was "very sick," Krot said his inability to keep up with his property was inexcusable.
A petition titled "Remove Judge Alexis Krot!!!" has since circulated online, and has so far amassed more than 169,000 signatures of social media watchdogs.
"She has a history of being bigoted to immigrants," the petition alleges.
The petition also pointed to a post on Instagram by Detroit crime blogger @crimeinthed_detroit, where one follower quipped, "Who appointed Karen as a judge?"
Krot did not immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday. Her role as a judge forbids her from commenting on the case, according to WDIV.
A video of the court exchange was shared on social media, with many critics blasting the judge for how she handled what should have been a routine hearing. Among those was Shibbir Chowdhury, who joined his father for the court hearing this week.
"The way she said that my father should serve jail time for this thing really bugged me," Chowdhury, 33, told The Washington Post on Wednesday. "I was really shocked by it. I didn't expect her to yell at us in this kind of a situation."
"I believe you don't even deserve to sit in that chair," one Hamtramck resident wrote on Facebook.
Shibbir has also been taken aback by the online support offered to his father over his interaction with the judge.
"People understand that a situation like this can happen with someone who is old or sick," he said. "I'm really thankful to those in our city who have supported us and letting us know that they're beside us."
Burhan Chowdhury and his family first came to the United States from Bangladesh in 2010, eventually settling full time in Michigan in 2014, his son said. They bought their current home in Hamtramck, located about six miles from downtown Detroit, in 2016.
The family was devastated when Chowdhury was diagnosed with cancer in his lymph nodes in February 2019, his son told The Post. Shibbir Chowdhury said he has seen his father's health deteriorate not just from cancer but also heart issues and high blood pressure. His mother also has faced health issues after she fell down the stairs and hurt her back, he said.
"It's been difficult," the son said, adding that the cancer treatments have affected his father's mobility.
Though Shibbir Chowdhury and his mother were diligent in cleaning the yard since the cancer diagnosis, the family faced challenges when the son travelled to Bangladesh for three months last year. With his parents unable to keep up on the maintenance, the grass and weeds grew out of control in front of and on the side of the house, Chowdhury said.
When the son returned home, his father informed him that they were issued a ticket 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. Chowdhury noted that the region's rainy season also played a role in the vegetation getting out of control.
"It was a chain reaction," he said. "The neighbours probably complained and took the picture that was sent to the city."
The family cleaned up the property soon after, but Burhan Chowdhury still had to make a court appearance to see whether he would have to pay a fine. The father did not know anything about Krot, who was appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Rick Snyder (R) in 2016. She was re-elected to the nonpartisan position in 2020 after running unopposed.
Shibbir Chowdhury said he plans to pay the fine for his father in the coming days. He reiterated that the home is in good shape now and has been in the last few months.