Judge who jailed lawyer over pledge faces reprimand

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Chancery Court Judge Talmadge Littlejohn will be publicly reprimanded for ordering a lawyer to jail in 2010 for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

In a 9-0 vote, the Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday agreed the New Albany judge misused his powers and violated state judicial canons when he held Oxford attorney Danny Lampley in criminal contempt after Lampley declined to repeat the pledge in Littlejohn’s Lee County courtroom.

Lampley spent five hours in the Lee County jail on Oct. 6, but was brought back that day for a hearing before the chancellor.

Littlejohn had no comment, but Lampley said the court’s order “speaks for itself.”

The reprimand could occur as early as next week.

Chief Justice William Waller Jr., writing for the court, said the First Chancery District judge “admits his actions violated Lampley’s First Amendment rights” and agreed to his punishment recommended by the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance.

Littlejohn, an attorney for nearly 50 years, was a municipal judge for 16 years, a district attorney and a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives and Senate.

“Judge Littlejohn’s actions also injured the integrity and independence of the judiciary,” Waller wrote.

“His intolerance toward Lampley created the impression that individuals with certain viewpoints are in a special position to influence Judge Littlejohn.”

But, the court said, his actions were “isolated” and not a pattern of conduct.

Subsequently, Waller said the chancellor promises “to respect and protect” the free-speech rights of anyone who declines to say the pledge in his courtroom.

The court also fined Littlejohn $100.

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