Attorney Andrea Burton has been held in contempt of court and sentenced to five days in jail for refusing to remove a Black Lives Matter pin from her lapel while in the presence of Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Robert Milich. Milich requested that Burton remove the pin due to a long-standing policy he has enforced regarding attorneys making political statements while in the court room. Milich told reporters that he requested Burton remove the pin several times before being forced to find her in contempt of court. Milich even went as far as inviting Burton into his private chambers to explain his reasoning for the request before having her placed under arrest.
Milich explained that his personal opinions and beliefs have nothing to do with his decision. He told reporters at WKBN news:
“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,”
Several legal analysts have sided with Milich, stating that judges have free reign when it comes to what’s said, or worn, in their courtrooms. Burton has contact the NAACP to help her fight Milich’s ruling. She claims that her First Amendment rights have been violated. Burton has joined forces with fellow attorney and community Kim Akins to fight the ruling. The claim that Burton , or any other attorney, would not be prevented from wearing an American flag on their lapel and, because an attorney is permitted to wear an American flag, Burton should be allowed to wear a BLM pin.
Akins commented on the perceived issue to reporters, stating:
“No one wearing an American flag button, no one wearing a crucifix or a Star of David would be removed, so why this particular statement bothered him so much is bothersome,”
In response, Milich once again explained he does not allow attorney’s to make political statements in court based on the possible effect it could have on the outcome of the trial. He stated:
“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,”
Matt Mangino, a prominent legal analyst, defended Milich’s decision to ask Burton to remove the pin. Stating that the pin could serve as a distraction to the court and reiterating the presiding judge’s right to ask anyone to remove an object that could potentially influence the trial. He stated that there have been several occasions 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.
Burton was released after her arrest on her own recognizance until she is due to appear again in court, this time for her own appeal.