Pledge flap leads to reprimand recommendation for judge

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Chancellor Talmadge Littlejohn of New Albany should be publicly reprimanded and fined $100 for ordering an attorney to jail for not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, a state agency said Tuesday.
Littlejohn was not available for comment, but he admitted to the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance that he violated Oxford attorney Danny Lampley’s rights with his contempt of court order Oct. 6.
Littlejohn “abused his contempt powers by jailing” Lampley, when he refused to recite the pledge, said the state’s judicial watchdog agency.
The commission’s report, filed Tuesday, said Littlejohn violated Canon 1 of the Code of Judicial Performance, which says judges should uphold the integrity of the judiciary and holds judges to high standards of conduct.
It also said he violated four other canons requiring judges to respect the law, to dispose of all matters fairly and to maintain professional competence.
The Mississippi Supreme Court will consider the commission’s recommendation.
Lampley, reached at his office, was reluctant to comment but said, “I’m pleased that my First Amendment rights have been vindicated.”
Lampley was jailed Oct. 6 after refusing to recite the pledge in Littlejohn’s courtroom. Shortly after his release, Lampley said he believed that, as an American, he was not required to repeat loyalty oaths.
The commission said it received a formal complaint about Littlejohn’s actions on Oct. 11. Lampley insisted he was not responsible for the complaint.
Littlejohn’s counsel filed a motion to dismiss the complaint but later withdrew it for an Agreed Statement of Facts and Proposed Recommendations dated Nov. 9, which all parties signed, MCJP said.
Littlejohn apparently “has altered the manner” in which he conducts the pledge in his court, MCJP said, noting its recitation now is voluntary and that he will respect and protect the right of any person to refrain from saying it.
He recently was re-elected without opposition for another term in the 1st Chancery District, which includes Alcorn, Tishomingo, Pontotoc, Lee, Itawamba, Monroe and Union counties.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.