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HomeNewsArchivesJUDGE ORDERS FLAG PINS REMOVED IN COURT

JUDGE ORDERS FLAG PINS REMOVED IN COURT

Sept. 18, 2001 – Lofton P. Holder, an assistant attorney general with the V.I. Justice Department, was stunned on Monday when Territorial Court Judge Rhys Hodge ordered him to remove his American flag lapel pin.
"I feel my First Amendment rights have been violated and trampled on," he said afterward.
Holder said he was wearing the pin as a patriotic sign of support for President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
A Vietnam combat veteran, Holder said the situation unfolded during jury selection for several upcoming criminal trials. He said Stephen Brusch, a defense attorney, told Hodge that the pin violated his client's rights because it would taint the jury.
"How that could taint an American jury in an American courtroom, I don't know," Holder reflected.
Holder said Brusch then asked Hodge to order him to take the pin off. He said the judge did so, and he removed his pin.
According to Holder, Hodge compared the situation to one in the O.J. Simpson murder trial in which U.S. District Judge Lance Ito told a prosecutor to remove an angel pin. Holder said he sees no similarity between the two instances.
He also said it was later discovered that a defendant — not his client — also was wearing a flag pin. That defendant also took off his pin after Hodge ordered him to do so.
In Territorial Court and U.S. District Court, U.S. flags are prominently displayed on poles at the front of all court rooms.
Brusch, reached at his law office on St. Thomas, refused to comment on any cases. Hodge did not return a telephone call requesting comment.

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Sept. 18, 2001 - Lofton P. Holder, an assistant attorney general with the V.I. Justice Department, was stunned on Monday when Territorial Court Judge Rhys Hodge ordered him to remove his American flag lapel pin.
"I feel my First Amendment rights have been violated and trampled on," he said afterward.
Holder said he was wearing the pin as a patriotic sign of support for President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
A Vietnam combat veteran, Holder said the situation unfolded during jury selection for several upcoming criminal trials. He said Stephen Brusch, a defense attorney, told Hodge that the pin violated his client's rights because it would taint the jury.
"How that could taint an American jury in an American courtroom, I don't know," Holder reflected.
Holder said Brusch then asked Hodge to order him to take the pin off. He said the judge did so, and he removed his pin.
According to Holder, Hodge compared the situation to one in the O.J. Simpson murder trial in which U.S. District Judge Lance Ito told a prosecutor to remove an angel pin. Holder said he sees no similarity between the two instances.
He also said it was later discovered that a defendant -- not his client -- also was wearing a flag pin. That defendant also took off his pin after Hodge ordered him to do so.
In Territorial Court and U.S. District Court, U.S. flags are prominently displayed on poles at the front of all court rooms.
Brusch, reached at his law office on St. Thomas, refused to comment on any cases. Hodge did not return a telephone call requesting comment.