By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
Attorney Danny Lampley’s telephone started ringing at 6:55 Thursday morning.
The media, legal colleagues and regular people wanted to talk with him about what happened Wednesday when Chancellor Talmadge Littlejohn ordered him to jail for not repeating the Pledge of Allegiance.
“It’s going to take me a couple of days to wrap my mind around this,” he said, sounding a little bewildered and tired. “It started so early, It’s been hard to get something to eat.”
The 49-year-old graduate of the University of Mississippi Law School spent 4 1/2 hours in jail after refusing to recite the pledge along with others in the courtroom.
He then was released and returned to the courtroom.
On Thursday, Lampley said he’s trying to work through what’s next with this issue, and whether or how he will address it.
Meanwhile, the Lafayette Countian’s story has gone viral – from Mississippi throughout the U.S. via news wire services and the Internet.
One story was found written posted in Russia, with the only three phrases clear to non-Russian readers: The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Talmadge Littlejohn and Danny Lampley.
Constitutional scholars and others are speaking out about Lampley’s First Amendment free-speech rights.
“The judge is lucky he has immunity and can’t be sued,” said George Cochran of Oxford, the iconic constitutional law professor at Ole Miss Law School.
“This man has a constitutional right not be forced to repeat the pledge.”
First Amendment scholars point to the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court decision in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, a case in which Jehovah’s Witness students refused to salute the flag.
The Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protected students from the salute or the pledge, saying that the state did not have the power to compel speech in that manner for anyone.
While Littlejohn could not be reached for comment Thursday, the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance is believed to have received at least one complaint about Lampley’s treatment.
Bloggers and attorneys also have criticized Littlejohn, a former district attorney who was admitted to the Bar in 1960 and lives in New Albany.
Phillip Thomas, a Jackson attorney who also blogs, termed Littlejohn’s conduct “ignorant and inexcusable.”
Said Rob McDuff, a well-known civil liberties lawyer in Jackson: “Judge are supposed to enforce the Bill of Rights, not violate it in their own courtrooms,”
McDuff and First Amendment Center scholar David Hudson Jr. in Nashville said they’d never heard of a similar situation.
Lampley’s exercise of his rights had “no bearing” on the judicial proceedings scheduled in Littlejohn’s courtroom, Professor Cochran said.
Lampley just sighed as he talked about the situation.
“I just wish somebody else had handled this before I came along,” he said.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED, that Danny Lampley, Attorney at Law, is in criminal contempt of court for his failure to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance as ordered by the undersigned Chancellor and is hereby ordered to be incarcerated in the Lee County jail.
IT IS FURTHER ORDED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED, that Danny Lampley shall purge himself of said criminal contempt by complying with the order of this Court by standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in open court.”
– Talmadge D. Littlejohn, chancellor, Oct. 6, 2010