Ohio judge jails attorney for wearing Black Lives Matter badge in court

© David Gray
An attorney in Ohio has been sentenced to five days in jail after refusing to remove her Black Lives Matter pin at the request of the judge, who found it too political and provocative for the courtroom.

Attorney Andrea Burton was found in contempt of court by Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Robert Milich and sentenced to five days in jail for refusing to accept his request to remove the pin.

Milich told the court he found that by Burton choosing to wear it in court, she was making a political statement, which the court prohibits.

Burton will avoid spending time behind bars for the moment, however, after lodging an appeal against the judge’s ruling but she mustn't wear the pin in court until the appeal takes place.

If she loses her appeal, Burton will have to serve the five days in jail, according to WKBN.

Milich explained that his decision was based on the 1997 US Supreme Court case Berner v. Delahanty, which found that “lawyers have no absolute right to wear such feelings on their sleeves” and that a judge’s “policy of prohibiting all political pins is a reasonable means of ensuring the appearance of fairness and impartiality in the courtroom.”

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Burton’s mother has said that as a black woman, the cause is important to her daughter but it isn’t a political stunt.

“She’s not excluding any class of people,” Dawn Burton told Vindy. “She’s just saying as a black woman, she’s saying black lives matter as well.”

The NAACP in Youngstown have also said they will do all they can “to ensure that Attorney Burton’s Constitutional rights are not being violated.”

“We thought the judge was overstepping his authority by arresting an attorney for simply letting the world know she is in favor of the Black Lives [Matter] movement,” said NAACP’s George Freeman.

“No one wearing an American flag button, no one wearing a crucifix or a Star of David would be removed,” added lawyer and community activist Kim Akins. “So why this particular statement bothered him so much is bothersome.”

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Judge Milich has argued however that he “doesn’t support either side,” and that he was merely upholding the law.

“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 said. “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.”