Date: December 2, 2010
Byline: Jimmie E. Gates
Judge admits he violated rights
A chancery judge has admitted he violated the rights of a Tupelo lawyer by having him jailed for not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in his courtroom, the state judicial watchdog group says.
The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance has recommended to the state Supreme Court that Chancery Judge Talmadge Littlejohn be publicly reprimanded for jailing attorney Danny Lampley. Littlejohn also must pay $100 in court costs.
The commission says Littlejohn is now making the pledge voluntary in his courtroom.
The state Supreme Court makes the final decision on punishment for judges.
The commission found Littlejohn abused his contempt powers by jailing Lampley on Oct. 6. Lampley was in jail for almost five hours.
"I'm pleased my rights were vindicated," Lampley said Wednesday.
Littlejohn couldn't be reached for comment.
Lampley said he isn't going to criticize Littlejohn.
"I never did file a complaint; someone else filed it," Lampley said.
Lampley said what has baffled him is that some people don't understand his stand against being forced to say the pledge. He said he would have had no problem with the judge asking people if they wanted to participate.
"I didn't know I was pissing off the judge," Lampley said. "It wasn't my intention."
Littlejohn was known for asking everyone to stand to recite the pledge when he enters his courtroom.
Lampley is known for fighting free-speech legal battles.
A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court said schoolchildren could not be forced to recite the pledge.
Lampley, 49, previously refused to say the pledge in front of Littlejohn in June.
He was asked to leave the courtroom but returned after the pledge.
Lampley was representing a client in a divorce case when he was found in contempt.
Littlejohn's order said Lampley could purge himself of criminal contempt by complying with the order to stand and recite the pledge.
Lampley agreed to stand for the pledge but said he shouldn't have to recite it.
Littlejohn was re-elected Nov. 2 without opposition to a new four-year term beginning in January.
His district covers Alcorn, Tishomingo, Pontotoc, Lee, Itawamba, Monroe and Union counties.
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