Reaction is global today after Oxford attorney Danny Lampley was jailed Wednesday because he declined to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance in Chancellor Talmadge Littlejohn’s Tupelo courtroom.
“The judge is lucky he’s immune from being sued,” said George Cochran, the iconic constitutional law professor at the University of Mississippi.
Littlejohn declined comment on the situation Wednesday and could not be reached again today.
News reports about Lampley’s jailing are being published around the globe after The Associated Press carried information from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal’s report.
In a Russian version of the story, the only words recognizable by English readers are the newspaper’s name, Littlejohn’s and Lampley’s.
Reaction has been harsh, too, from Mississippi attorneys and legal bloggers.
• Read Friday’s Daily Journal for more.
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TUPELO – Danny Lampley’s clients usually are the ones ordered to the Lee County Jail.
Wednesday, Chancellor Talmadge Littlejohn sent the 49-year-old Oxford attorney there for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in court.
Littlejohn urged Lampley to reconsider repeating the Pledge, as every other person in the judge’s courtroom did as the day’s proceedings began.
“This morning, that was the last thing on my mind,” Lampley said late in the day after a child-support hearing.
At 10 a.m., Lampley was in jail garb. By 2:30 p.m., Littlejohn ordered his release and return to the Lee County Justice Center to continue their business.
After the hearing, Littlejohn’s assistant said the judge had no comment on the matter.
Lampley said he was worried the judge would send him back to jail.
Simply put, the attorney said he and the judge have a “different point of view” about things, like loyalty oaths and the pledge.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” Lampley said, “I’m just not going to back off on this.
“It’s a problem, but it’s for the judge and me to work out.”
Wednesday’s incident wasn’t the first time Lampley had crossed the judge. Lampley said he was reprimanded by Littlejohn in June in a Corinth proceeding.
“I don’t have to say it because I’m an American,” he said about the 31-word pledge. “I hope he’s not too angry with me.”
David Hudson Jr., a scholar at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, said forcing Lampley to repeat the pledge is clearly a violation of his free-speech rights.
“I’ve never heard of a judge jailing a lawyer over this,” he said Wednesday.
Lampley is no stranger to controversy. Years ago, he represented a Pontotoc woman who objected to student-led intercom prayer and Bible history classes taught at North Pontotoc Attendance Center. U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers agreed the activities were unconstitutional.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Emily Le Coz contributed to this report.
Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal