Public Defender Refuses To Remove “Black Lives Matter” Pin Despite Judicial Order

black-lives-matter-button-225Deputy PD, Erika Ballou, has refused to comply with a judicial order to remove a Black Lives Matter pin from her blouse — a clear violation of court rules. As we recently discussed with regard to such pins, judges maintain basic rules of decorum and dress in their courtrooms, particularly in barring political symbols that may influence a jury or witnesses. What is astonishing is not just that Ballou defied the court but that Clark County Public Defender Phil Kohn was standing next to her and a dozen defense lawyers stood behind her in support.

The Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct states that “a judge shall require order and decorum in proceedings before the court.”

Judge Douglas Herndon of Clark County was consistent with most judges in demanding that lawyers remove such political buttons. He stated that the button “is making a political statement, that, ‘I wear this in protest of how the court is treating minority defendants.'” Herndon’s order was well within the powers articulated in prior cases like Burner v. Delahanty. In that case, the court explained the facts:

The defendant, Thomas E. Delahanty, II, is an associate justice of the Maine Superior Court.   On October 31, 1995, Berner was seated in the gallery of Judge Delahanty’s courtroom, waiting for his turn to appear before the court.   Berner wore a circular button pinned to his lapel.   The button was approximately two inches in diameter and bore the words “No on 1-Maine Won’t Discriminate.”   This legend expressed opposition to a statewide referendum that Maine voters were scheduled to consider during the November election.1  Neither the pin nor its message were related to Berner’s business before the court.

The court upheld the power of the judge and rejected the same type of free speech claims made by Ballou:

Judge Delahanty’s order compelling Berner to remove his political-advocacy button while in the courtroom fits comfortably within this apolitical paradigm.   Emblems of political significance worn by attorneys in the courtroom as a means of espousing personal political opinions can reasonably be thought to compromise the environment of impartiality and fairness to which every jurist aspires.   As an officer of the court, a lawyer’s injection of private political viewpoints into the courtroom, coupled with the judge’s toleration of such conduct, necessarily tarnishes the veneer of political imperviousness that ideally should cloak a courtroom, especially when the partisan sentiments are completely unrelated to the court’s business.

Here, Judge Delahanty stated clearly that he was ordering Berner to remove the button because participants in the judicial process ought not simultaneously “take sides” in extraneous political debates.5  This explanation is entirely consistent with a desire to ensure that the courtroom remains free from the appearance of political partisanship.   Evaluating the professed justification, as we must, “in light of the purpose of the forum and all the surrounding circumstances,” Cornelius, 473 U.S. at 809, 105 S.Ct. at 3453, we discern no reason why a judge may not even-handedly prohibit lawyers from wearing political paraphernalia in the courtroom.

Notably, public defenders in this office have previously had confrontations with judges who say that they have refused to comply with orders.

The rules for the Tenth Judicial District are typical in prohibiting certain clothing items but does not expressly reference buttons or other symbols:

Rule 10.  Courtroom conduct and attire.  Proceedings in court should be conducted with fitting dignity and decorum.
The following attire shall be required for all court appearances:
A.  Attorneys:
1.  All male attorneys shall wear full length trousers, dress-type shirts, coats and ties.
2.  All female attorneys shall wear suitable dresses or pantsuits.
B.  Litigants, witnesses and jurors (minimum requirements):
1.  Male: Long or short sleeve dress-type shirts; slacks or dress-type denim trousers; dress shoes or boots.
2.  Female: Dresses; dress slacks or skirts and blouses; dress shoes.
3.  Law enforcement personnel may elect to wear uniforms.
In no event will t-shirts, tank or halter tops, shorts, soiled or unkempt clothing, thongs, sandals or casual exercise apparel be allowed.
[Added; effective November 6, 1987]

unknownClark County Public Defender Phil Kohn appears to believe that lawyers can insist on wearing political symbols or buttons despite orders for a court and also refuse to leave a case when found in defiance or contempt. That raises serious question over the judgment and conduct of both Kohn and Ballou. Kohn says that he does not view the pins as political speech. If not, what are they? Moreover, Ballou defended her actions on free speech grounds. Since this is not religious speech, it is hard to see what free speech Ballou is referencing other than political speech. Moreover, symbols tied to other causes from cultural to sports can be deemed as currying favor with jurors, judges or witnesses. What if a prosecutor started to wear a “Police Lives Matter” button?

What do you think?

61 thoughts on “Public Defender Refuses To Remove “Black Lives Matter” Pin Despite Judicial Order”

  1. “What if a prosecutor started to wear a “Police Lives Matter” button?”

    This is your counter-argument? How interesting. It DOES reveal the fact that almost all prosecutors and police are in cahoots and is further argument that there should be independent boards or agencies to investigate, present to grand juries and prosecute the police.

    Too many times when prosecutors DO investigate or prosecute the police, they (the police) respond by throwing tantrums, refusing to cooperate in other cases, going on sick-outs and otherwise behaving like the irresponsible bullies they too often are.

    Thanks for making that point.

    1. phillyT – if the prosecutor wore Police Lives Matter I would vote not guilty. I want a nice, non-biased court where we can hear the evidence and review the facts of the case.

      1. If you want a non-biased court, then police should be investigated and prosecuted by independent bodies, not the DA’s they work with every day.

        1. phillyT – I am an advocate of the system used in the UK where one day you are a prosecutor and the next you are a defense counsel. It keeps you from getting set in your ways.

  2. Federal employees and LEOs who appear in court on behalf of the agency are not allowed to wear ANY type of political buttons, nor any visible religious symbols. The handbook says you can wear a wedding ring, wristwatch, and if you’re female, “modest” ear rings. That’s it. No visible tattoos, either. And if you color your hair, it has to be a human color. Thus no tats, dreadlocks, purple hair or Bernie Sander’s / BLM pins.

  3. Dey no be shining dey a$$e$! Dey jus be Colin Kappernickin’! Don’t be hatin’ on dem. Don’t be judgin’! Dey dindu nuffin!

    (Hey, I was trying to get into the ethnic spirit of things!)

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. there was nothing in your crap comment that was worth reading.

      next time ask an adult for help

      1. Sure there was. You just didn’t think very deeply about it. The point was, that all that matters is the racial/ethnic dimension. Why else would lawyers openly defy a judge? Fashion Rights?

        Racial politics trumps reality. Where do you think the stupid Black Lives Matter idiocy comes from.

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

      1. Blacks ought to be mocked. They are ridiculous. They are a joke. They have a 75% illegitimate birth rate, and act like idiots in school – – – and then complain about White Privilege. The only people dumber than them, are the white liberals who swallow that bilge.

        Plus, aren’t you the one who earlier could never explain why what I said was racisssst! ???

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

        1. Squeeky . . . You are so very wrong. All groups have their share of good and bad, engineers, doctors bus drivers ectera, even Whites. What you fail to see is that the vast majority of Blacks are not looters, uneducated, victims. who need special help from the government to progress. I know this flies in the face of what you see and hear on TV and what Nearly EVERY Black politician will say but it is true. If you insist on using ethnicity to debase all Blacks then I will walk that path with you.

          The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was more than 38 million/ 17 million dead. Direct result of White nations and leadership
          Over 60 million people killed in ww 2 Direct result of White nations and leadership.
          death toll directly attributable to Stalin of Russia amounted to some 20 million
          Crime ? The biggest crime organizations drug pushers prostitution are all white from mafia to Colombians (yes Colombians are White) , Near every mass murderer in America Was white. The over whelming number of pedophiles (priest included ) are white, Yes Blacks Have their share of bad actors, but compared to White America WE are rookies and You are the undisputed masters on a global scale
          Now / Whites have done much good , to go along with all that evil / But so have Black Americans .

          1. solvermn – there is a black serial killer from South Africa you would be interested in. And some of the serial killers in the USA were Hispanic. Now, there is a little fight with the census bureau over whether they are white or not, but according to the census bureau they are not.

    2. .
      Black people are doing the bidding of a white man & don’t even know it.
      Re: Charlotte, With George Soros’ Filthy Black Fingerprints All Over It.
      There’s a Black President
      There’s a Black Congressman
      There’s a Black Chief of Police
      There’s a Black District Attorney
      There’s a Black Mayor until 2014 (Jailed)
      There’s a Black Officer who pulled a trigger
      There’s a Black Man Dead of that gunshot wound
      There’s a Black Man on TV Rioting over his death saying:
      There’s a Black Future for Whites coming because Whites are Devils.
      There’s a Black Man From the 60’s Who Would be Ashamed of these Riots

      Police: 70% arrested were out-of-staters. The ‘outrage’ was largely manufactured. Ppl, reportedly bussed in to riot explains the speed in which the mob overwhelmed CPD. DCLeaks revealed GeorgeSoros is funding BLM & other hostile orgs to “dismantle & recast” America more to his vision.

      BTW, born ‘Schwartz,’ which meant ‘Black’ in German, it was changed to ‘Soros.’
      How do blacks like gettin’ owned by this old, rich, white, European prick?

      Personally, I wonder when George Soros’ long, long vacation is coming.
      Until he goes on that vacation, Blacks & Whites alike will keep going on theirs.

      1. Jim Mayer – Soros is like 85. I am hoping his donations end with his death. You never see a picture of his standing, always sitting.

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