July 25, 2106
Youngstown, Ohio Attorney Andrea Burton was held in contempt of court and arrested after wearing a Black Lives Matter pin to court.
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 Post that a judge has the authority to determine whether certain signs are “political.”
The judge can also determine whether wearing a certain button would be a distraction in the courtroom, or give the impression of bias. Mangino said:
Judges obviously have wide latitude in their courtroom with regard to decorum and things like that as long as their rules are reasonable. 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.
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.
But you have to balance that with First Amendment. I think that distinction is in the eye of the beholder. A judge obviously has great authority and latitude within his or her courtroom. He is the beholder. Black Lives Matter is so new, what does it mean to a judge? And how does a judge determine what that means.
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