First Amendment

Lawyer who refused to remove Black Lives Matter pin is sentenced to five days in jail

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An Ohio lawyer is appealing a five-day contempt sentence for refusing to remove her Black Lives Matter pin in court.

Municipal Judge Robert Milich of Youngstown found lawyer Andrea Burton in contempt of court and sentenced her on Friday, report WKBN and the Youngstown Vindicator. Burton tells the Youngstown Vindicator she won’t wear the button in court while the appeal is pending.

Burton was handcuffed and taken to the city jail after refusing to remove the button, but she was released after an appeals court granted a stay sought by NAACP lawyers.

Milich cited the case Berner v. Delahanty in which the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a decision upholding a judge’s ban on political buttons in the courtroom. A lawyer had challenged the ban after being forced to remove a pin supporting a referendum banning discrimination against gays. (A summary of the case by the First Amendment Center is here.)

“I have to follow the law,” Milich told the Vindicator.

Milich says he believes the Black Lives Matter pin expresses support for a political movement. “There’s a difference between a flag, a pin from your church or the Eagles and having a pin that’s on a political issue,” Milich told WKBN.

Mike Brickner, senior policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, told WKBN he didn’t know enough about the particular case to comment. But judges generally are given wide latitude to decide what can be worn in court, he said.

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