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Judge Dismisses Lawyer From Court for Wearing African Kente Cloth

June 12, 1992

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A judge removed a lawyer from an assault case Thursday because he refused to stop wearing an African kente cloth to court.

District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Robert M. Scott dismissed John T. Harvey III after he showed up in court again with the colorful cloth draped around his neck.

Scott has said the cloth could prejudice a jury. The judge said he will appoint another attorney to represent Elvin Barnes, who is charged with assault with intent to murder.

On May 22, the judge ordered Harvey to either remove the cloth or stop representing his client. Scott also gave Barnes the option of pleading guilty or waiving his right to a jury trial.

Harvey, 32, filed a civil lawsuit against Scott on Wednesday, asking the D.C. Court of Appeals to overturn Scott’s May ruling.

In the suit, Harvey claimed the order violated his First Amendment right of religious freedom, impeded his ability to represent his client and hurt his client’s right to counsel.

Harvey has said as officer of his church, he was required to wear the cloth at all times. Harvey, who is black, is a member of Faith United Church of Christ, which requires the cloth be worn as an expression of religious faith and ethnic solidarity both at work and in private.

In the suit, Harvey also called the judge, who is white, biased and too ″incompetent to continue to represent the impartiality required of a member of the judiciary.″

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