Littlejohn 'awarded' over Pledge punishment

Chancery Judge Talmadge Littlejohn of New Albany is one of 2011′s recipients of an anti-free-speech award.
The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression in Charlottesville, Va., cited the longtime judge in its list of Jefferson Muzzle Award “winners” on Tuesday.
The recognition was established in 1992 to call national attention to anyone who in the previous year “forgot or disregarded” Jefferson’s admonition that freedom of speech “cannot be limited without being lost.”
Last fall, Littlejohn jailed Oxford attorney Danny Lampley for declining to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in the judge’s Tupelo courtroom.
Five hours later, Lampley was freed but the judge held him in criminal contempt of court.
In his own defense, Lampley cited the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech and, at the time, said he objected to any sort of oath-taking.
Neither Littlejohn nor Lampley was available for comment Tuesday.
In December, the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance recommended a public reprimand for Littlejohn. The judge conceded that he violated Lampley’s rights by holding him in contempt. Today, reciting the pledge is voluntary in his courtroom.
The Mississippi Supreme Court has not yet acted on the MCJP recommendation.
Josh Wheeler, a Jefferson Center spokesman, termed Littlejohn’s behavior “reckless disregard for the First Amendment.”
He also said the citation was established to foster an appreciation for the First Amendment.
“Because the importance and value of free expression extend far beyond the First Amendment’s limit on government censorship,” Wheeler said, “acts of private censorship are not spared consideration for the dubious honor of receiving a Muzzle.”
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal