Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Appeal from Lawyer Sentenced for Wearing Black Lives Matter Pin

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Appeal from Lawyer Sentenced for Wearing Black Lives Matter Pin

Article excerpt

Ohio attorney Andrea Burton was jailed for five days after refusing to remove a Black Lives Matter pin she was wearing in court. The incident has spurred a debate across the nation about whether the pin represented a constitutional right to freedom of expression or a political message that did not belong in the courtroom.

Ms. Burton had worn the small Black Lives Matter pin to court once previously with no problem, but on Friday the judge, Robert Milich, told her there had been complaints about her pin and asked her to remove it. She refused, and when she refused for the second time, she was taken away in handcuffs and sentenced to five days in jail, a jail she had previously only visited to meet with clients.

"A judge doesn't support either side," Judge Milich told the Youngstown Fox News station. "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."

Judges do have the right to ask people in the courtroom to remove clothing with messages that may interfere with the defendant's right to a fair trial, and Milich's argument was that there is a difference between an American flag or a church or sports related pin and one that makes a political statement.

"It's not uncommon to have dress codes and other sorts of things. What you normally might find is a sign outside that says lawyers need to wear ties or no cutoffs or tank tops," Matt Mangino, a criminal defense attorney who used to be a prosecutor in Lawrence County, which borders the county where Burton was arrested, told The Washington Post.

"With regards to protests or political statements, things that can be controversial if they're displayed in a courtroom, it may be akin to wearing a Hillary Clinton button in the court - anything that could disturb the court or disturb the decorum within a courtroom or lead to either the impression of bias," Mangino continued. …

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