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A defense attorney touched off a protest about race and free expression in a Las Vegas courtroom when she refused to remove a "Black Lives Matter" button from her blouse despite a judge's request not to demonstrate what he called "political speech."

Clark County District Court Judge Douglas Herndon asked Erika Ballou, a deputy public defender who is black, to remove the button or leave the courtroom and turn the case she was handling over to another lawyer.

"I'm asking the same thing of defense attorneys that I ask of anybody else," the judge said. "Please leave any kind of political or opinion protest statements outside the courtroom."

Ballou, with Clark County Public Defender Phil Kohn standing at her side and about a dozen defense attorneys in the audience Tuesday to show their support, insisted that she had a First Amendment right to demonstrate her opinion. She also refused to remove herself from her client's case, which the judge postponed to Thursday.

Several supporters wore a similar lapel button: Black, about the size of a silver dollar, with white letters. Attorney Jonathan MacArthur said he'll wear it again to Herndon's courtroom on Thursday.


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