Public defender fired because of BLM tie

In the interest of full disclosure, I am compelled to point out that I know the lawyer in question. We attended law school at the same time and had at least one class together. I would describe us acquaintances rather than friends; we haven’t socialized outside school and though we are Facebook friends it is primarily because we are part of the same alumni network. We haven’t discussed this firing, other than me reading a Facebook post he made and posting something appropriately sympathetic in response.

An assistant public defender in Florida was fired last week because he wore a Black Lives Matter tie at the office and in court. The public defender’s office indicated he was fired for other reasons and that the tie was irrelevant, but also made comments on the tie and I think it’s safe to say it was a contributing factor.

When I first found out about it, I was under the impression that he was fired solely based on Facebook posts about BLM (which were not inflammatory or anything, nor made during work hours). The first time I heard about the tie was when I read the article, which he posted.

My initial response was sympathy and outrage. After I read that he wore the tie in court, my views moderated a bit. While lawyers have freedom of expression like anyone else, that freedom is necessarily circumscribed while representing clients since their interests come first, as well as by the rules of ethics.

While there seems to be no evidence that the tie detrimentally affected the interests of a client, there is also no evidence that it didn’t. For what it’s worth, the lawyer’s trial record is extremely impressive based on a fairly small sample size; if the tie turned off juries, it doesn’t show in his statistics.

I am not sure exactly what the debate is here, but there seems to be something worth debating. I suppose the opening question is, “was this firing justified?”

For me, the question of firing really turns on the issues in this paragraph.

I don’t care, as a broad proposition, whether prosecutors or police witnesses or the judge or the jury members like his tie or not. The presence of the tie also, in an ideal world, should not prevent prosecutors or police witnesses or the judge or the jury members from acting professionally and making sound judgments based on the evidence and the law.

Thing is, though, it’s not always an ideal world, and if i thought that there was any chance that the tie would lose me a jury member, i wouldn’t wear it. Even if judges and jury members are not openly hostile to BLM, they could see the wearing of the tie as a sign of a lack of professionalism. And if the guy’s bosses are concerned about such things, i can understand why the tie might cause some consternation.

I’ve read comments from lawyers who go out of their way not to wear or do or say anything that’s likely to piss off a potential juror. Standing in line to get a coffee next to the courthouse and someone cuts in front of you? Let it go, because if you get in the guy’s face, you might find out that he’s on your jury in a few hours. I don’t know whether this really happens, or is lawyer apocrypha, but i’ve seen enough such claims to believe that there might be a kernel of truth in it.

One thing that makes me suspect that it might have been more than the tie is that the tie itself is a very easy thing to correct. If he’s a public defender, presumably he has a supervisor of some sort in the public defenders’ office. If the tie was a problem, that person could surely have asked him not to wear it before taking the nuclear option of dismissal.

I started out as a public defender, for whatever that’s worth. In any organization, a supervisor should discuss with the lawyer and either allow it or forbid it. If the boss forbids it, I have no problem making it a firing offense. Personally, I doubt anyone would be offended by a tie supporting black lives matter, and I’d be inclined to leave it to the discretion of the lawyer in question, but I haven’t seen the tie.

In any event, I’m guessing something else was going on here, more than a dispute over a tie.

If you read the article the guy’s boss said that he also posted a recording of people in the office on his facebook page, left his gun on his desk when he went to a trial, and printing out a bunch of criticism he wrote about his boss on facebook and left it on his boss’s desk. The tie was not decisive. It sounds like the biggest thing is that he felt he could criticize his boss on facebook whle working and then show it to his boss. I don’t see that as something any boss is going to overlook.

Politics doesn’t belong in the courtroom. However, your classmate has now established his Democrat credentials and I’m sure they’ll look after him.

Yes, I’m feeling cynical today.

ETA: posted this to follow Procrustus’s post. Thread is moving fast!

That’s my reaction as well. A tie is an easy fix, if the supervisor has a problem with it. I think there’s something more here than wearing it to court.

And yes, you never know what might set off a particular juror or even a judge. I always wear professional, neutral clothes to court, and never a button or anything else espousing a cause. (Heck, a guy I know got reamed out by the beak for wearing a turtleneck and jacket to court!)

Simple solution to the issue of not upsetting the jury: start wearing robes, waistcoat and tabs, as God intended barristers to do!

Wearing the tie to court shows remarkably poor judgment. I have no problem imagining that he has shown poor judgment in other areas.

You can see a picture of the tie in the article. It says BLACK LIVES MATTER at the bottom, superimposed over a sort of weathered US flag.

No, somebody else in the office printed out his “criticism of the boss” and left it on the boss’ desk. For the record, it was one post in which he said “can’t… wear a black lives matter tie to work without being discriminated against.” Didn’t mention his boss or even his employer.

I work in media relations in the government. That means that although I am of course allowed to express any views I wish, I need to realize that some (especially if I want to stay employed) are best kept to myself.

Freedom of speech does not include freedom from the consequences of that speech.

The tie seems like a red herring really. It’s the one item that can potentially draw sympathy for Edmond. Leaving an unsecured firearm would be sufficient for termination, IMO. And who the hell criticizes their boss on Facebook? Accusing your boss in public that they are discriminating against you is a serious allegation. That may not be fireable, but it’s poor judgment for sure. And surreptitiously recording colleagues - that’s sufficient for termination right there.

(post shortened)

As an insider, what were the official reasons given for the firing this public defender?

How did you determined that “it’s safe to say it was a contributing factor”?

Does the wearing of a BLM tie make a public defender immune from being fired? Is there a special snowflake safe space in the public defenders office reserved for BLM tie wearers?

Yeah. That was not a wise move. Firing? Perhaps not, but at least a written admonition/ reprimand. But the unsecured firearm? That could be a firing offense.

Let’s just say that if I were up in court and he were assigned as my public defender I’d be a worried man. The interests of the client must come first and it is most definitely not in the client’s interest for the lawyer to sport a BLM tie, or anything political at all.

Do you keep a fish bowl filled with alt-right clichés on scraps of paper, or do you actually think these are intelligent questions?

I wonder if that’s true. I mean, is it possible that a public defender could curry favour with a judge or a jury with some kind of political statement from how they dress? It obviously shouldn’t, but I don’t know if we could rule it out.


A man was fired from his job. We don’t know why he was officially fired. The man wore a tie. Was this firing justified? Discuss???

Dear BLM movement:

Please use a different acronym.

A confused federal lands browser.

Seriously, I thought we’d had the last of it when the insurgents took over Malheur and people were comparing their tactics to those of “BLM”*.

*True, the fish and wildlife service owned Malheur.

I’m glad I read the actual entire article. The OP left out all the good stuff to justify the firing.
Anyway, the fired attorney will now advance in life in private practice and defend the clients he wants to thanks to this publicity.

That is really, really silly, you need vital equipment at all times; suppose he needed to brandish it in front of a jury ?