Is a Black Lives Matter pin on a par with an American flag pin or a religious symbol, such as a crucifix or Star of David?
An attorney in Youngstown, Ohio, says yes, but the judge says no.
According to station WISH attorney Andrea Burton was held in contempt of court and sentenced to five days in jail when she refused Municipal Court Judge Robert Milich’s demand that she remove the pin in his courtroom.
Milich told reporters that his political opinions have nothing to do with his decision, adding that political “statements” have no business in a court of law:
A judge doesn’t support either side. A judge is objective and tries to make sure everyone has an opportunity to have a fair hearing, and it was a situation where it was just in violation of the law.
Burton remains a free woman, having appealed the ruling.
In the meantime, the usual suspects have become involved in the case.
The Youngstown branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said its legal counsel is monitoring the case closely as it may violate Burton’s civil rights.
A statement issued Friday from Youngstown NAACP President George Freeman, Jr. questioned whether Burton had violated the law. He has contacted the national NAACP’s legal office for assistance.
“We will do all that the NAACP Youngstown can do to ensure that Attorney Burton’s Constitutional rights are not being violated,” he said.
WISH reached out by email to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Mike Brickner, senior policy director, replied he didn’t know enough about the particular case to comment but said that in general judges enjoy wide latitude in determining what can and can’t be worn in a courtroom:
There have been cases in the past when people have been given contempt of court for refusing to comply with a judge’s order to remove an article of clothing that may have a message on it. Many times this has been done to retain the defendant’s right to a fair trial.
Brickner added that a judge’s restrictions in such matters must be reasonable and fairly applied.
Matt Mangino, described as a legal analyst, concurred:
The judge has the right in any circumstance that they think that some issue or matter will be disruptive to the court or a distraction to the court, they can ask that individual to remove that object.