On Thursday the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered that Chancery Judge Talmadge Littlejohn of New Albany be publicly reprimanded and fined $100 for jailing Oxford lawyer Danny Lampley for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance in his courtroom. Here is the Clarion-Ledger article on the case. Here is the Supreme Court’s opinion. Chief Justice Waller wrote the Court’s unanimous opinion.
The Court accepted the recommendation of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance. The Commission found that Judge Littlejohn violated several Canons of the Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct. The Court found that Judge Littlejohn’s actions injured the integrity and independence of the judiciary and damaged public perception of the judiciary.
To his credit, Judge Littlejohn admitted his misconduct and cooperated with the Commission.
The Commission and Supreme Court handled this matter very well. I hope that Judge Littlejohn was just having a bad day and that this incident does not reflect his judicial temperament.
Back when this happened people were debating what would happen if a spectator refused to stand when a judge entered the courtroom. I saw this happen in December in a federal court trial on the Coast before Judge Guirola. After it happened a couple of times, Judge Guirola insisted that spectators stand as a show of respect to the court and the judge’s position. He said that spectators didn’t have to personally respect him, but they did have to respect the Court and the position.
I thougt that Judge Guirola handled the matter very well, but it was un-comfortable.
The worst thing about it was that the spectator—who was not connected to the parties or attorneys—sat behind my counsel table. Tim Holleman of Gulfport was one of the opposing attorneys. I did about the only thing I could in that situation: asked the lady to please move and sit behind Tim.