An attorney in a Youngstown, Ohio municipal courtroom got a refresher course in Constitutional Law recently and may pay the price of five days in jail as tuition for it.

Although most people who enter a courtroom aren’t aware of it, all attorneys know that judges are the rulers in that space and are given wide latitude when it comes to what can be worn in their realms.

No less than the United States Supreme Court has held that judges can prohibit political buttons that they feel might be disruptive in the courtroom or a distraction to the process, so attorney Andrea Burton might have known that her “Black Lives Matter” pin would meet with objection.

Judge Robert Milich asked Burton to remove the pin, which would have been well within his authority under any circumstance, but especially understandable given the racially charged reactions the phrase engenders in blacks and whites.

When Burton refused to remove the BLM pin, Milich found her in contempt of court and sentenced her to five days in jail.

She was taken into custody and removed from the court, but has been released on a stay of execution pending an appeal.

Burton has received the support of both the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) with the president of the Youngstown chapter, George Freeman, Jr., questioning whether wearing the pin violated any law.

Judge Milich, however, pointed out that he based his finding on Supreme Court case law allowing the prohibition of symbolic political expression in the courtroom, saying, “There’s a difference between a flag, a pin from your church or the Eagles [rock band] and having a pin that’s on a political issue.”

A senior policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio agrees.

“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,” said Mike Brickner.

Burton has agreed to refrain from wearing the BLM pin in Judge Milich’s courtroom and will remain out of jail pending the outcome of the appeal.



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