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IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED, TRY A FEDERAL JUDGE William Mayo is so bound and determined not to have any judge-led Pledges of Allegiance that he’s literally made a federal case out of it. Last week, the Chico attorney filed suit in the Sacramento-based U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, seeking to stop two superior court judges — Butte County’s Stephen Benson and Tehama County’s John Garaventa — from leading the Pledge of Allegiance in their Oroville and Red Bluff courtrooms. His suit also names the Judicial Council of California and the Commission on Judicial Performance, which he claims have failed to act on complaints he lodged with each in late August. Mayo said he sued because he finds the judges’ actions “simply unacceptable,” and believes that Pledges — which, if not compelled, are at least coercive — violate his and his clients’ First Amendment rights. He also claims that the judges’ practice of leading everyone in the Pledge is a religious speech violation under the Establishment Clause. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Frank Damrell Jr. rejected Mayo’s demand for a temporary restraining order for each judge, but set the case for a preliminary injunction hearing on Dec. 17. In an e-mail, Mayo said he found that heartening. “My sense is that Judge Damrell understands my situation all too well,” Mayo wrote. Mayo had also filed motions with Benson and Garaventa, asking each to dispense with the Pledge. He appeared in both judges’ courtrooms on different days last week to make his plea in person. Judge Benson denied the motion, holding in an 11-page ruling that while Mayo’s argument was “well taken,” the power to conduct the Pledge “is within the province of every judge.” He also wrote that “respectful abstinence” to recitation “is judicially sanctioned,” and would not affect his decisions in any way. Mayo said that Judge Garaventa took a different approach the next day. He walked in and went straight to the Pledge. “I said, ‘I guess the motion is denied,’” Mayo recalled. “But he didn’t seem to be in the mood to laugh.” As it turned out, the motion, indeed, was denied. — Mike McKee SPEAKING OF THE PLEDGE… Fearing that they haven’t heard the last of Michael Newdow and the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, lawmakers pressed to take the Pledge of Allegiance cases out of federal judges’ reach last week. H.R. 2028 cleared the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and could go to a floor vote as early as this week. Sponsored by Todd Akin, R-Mo., it declares, “No court established by an Act of Congress shall have jurisdiction to hear or determine any claim that the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance � violates the first article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” Sound familiar? It’s similar to H.R. 3313, a bill that the House passed in August, which would block the federal courts from hearing disputes about the Defense of Marriage Act’s rule that allows states to disregard out-of-state same-sex marriages. Since the U.S. Supreme Court sidestepped Newdow’s First Amendment challenge to the words “under God,” Congress must shield the Pledge from future judicial tampering, Akin has said. “The idea that there is a God, and that God grants rights to humankind � is a fundamental principle,” Akin says. — Jahna Berry

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