Ohio lawyer, Andrea Burton, was handcuffed and led out of a courtroom by an attending sheriff when she refused to comply with Judge Robert Milich’s multiple requests that she remove her Black Lives Matter pin. After her refusal, the Judge and Ms. Burton adjourned to his chambers to discuss the impasse created by Ms. Burton’s position. She argued that the Court’s ruling was an unjustified infringement on her First Amendment right of free speech.
Judge Robert Milich reminded Ms. Burton that based on Supreme Court case law, he had authority to prohibit any symbolic political expression in his courtroom. He later spoke to the media declaring, “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”.
Judge Milich emphasized that his personal opinions had nothing to do with his decision.
“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 was sentenced to five days in jail for contempt of court, although she was later released and her jail sentence “stayed” pending her appeal of the Judge’s contempt finding and jail sentence.
Upon her release she told the local media that she believed that her First Amendment right overruled the Supreme Court law and Judge Milich’s discretion, and that she ignored the judge’s instructions because she didn’t want to remain neutral to injustice. “To remain neutral becomes an accomplice to oppression, ” she remarked. She also said:
“It’s an act of civil disobedience, I understand that. I’m not anti-police, I work with law enforcement and I hold them in the highest regard, and just to say for the record I do believe all lives matter. But at this point they don’t all matter equally, and that’s the problem in the justice system.”
Not surprisingly, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced they would be following Burton’s case and believe her civil rights may have been violated.
My view is that judges have full authority and discretion to determine what is said and what is worn in their courtrooms. They have jurisdiction to make findings of contempt for behaviour that does not comport with the required decorum and solemnity of our courts of law.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang