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Case Name ACLU of Kentucky v. McCreary County, Kentucky FA-KY-0003
Docket / Court 6:99-cv-00507-JBC ( E.D. Ky. )
State/Territory Kentucky
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Attorney Organization ACLU Affiliates (any)
Case Summary
On November 18, 1999 the ACLU of Kentucky and several individuals filed a lawsuit against McCreary, Harlan, and Polaski Counties in Kentucky in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. The Plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU and private counsel, sought declaratory and ... read more >
On November 18, 1999 the ACLU of Kentucky and several individuals filed a lawsuit against McCreary, Harlan, and Polaski Counties in Kentucky in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. The Plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU and private counsel, sought declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that the Defendants' display of the Ten Commandments in public schools and county courthouses violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction, requesting McCreary County and Pulaski County’s Ten Commandment displays in their courthouses be removed. Prior to resolution of this motion, the counties altered their displays. This second display included additional documents that were largely religious in nature. On May 5, 2000, the Court (Judge Jennifer B. Coffman) denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss and granted the plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction, on the grounds that the altered displays did not serve a secular purpose and therefore violated the Establishment Clause. The injunction ordered the defendants to remove their displays from their Courthouses and to refrain from erecting similar displays in the future. 96 F.Supp.2d 679 (E.D.KY. 2000).

The county defendants complied with the injunction and, for the third display, added other historical documents to the display that included the Ten Commandments. The counties did not repeal or overrule the resolutions that authorized the second displays on the grounds of religious importance when they erected this third display. In response to this third display, the plaintiffs sought to extend the injunction to McrCeary County’s current display, as well as Pulaski County’s courthouse display and the displays in Harlan County schools. On June 22, 2001, Judge Jennifer B. Coffman granted this request on similar grounds and ordered all the displays to be removed. 145 F.Supp.2d 845 (E.D.Ky. 2001). On December 18, 2003, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Eric L. Clay) affirmed the District Court's preliminary injunction on the grounds that the plaintiffs showed a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the defendants’ displays lacked a secular purpose. 354 F.3d 438, 462 (6th Cir. 2003).

The counties appealed the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion to the Supreme Court, and certiorari was granted on October 12, 2004. Before oral argument, the counties repealed the provisions that authorized their second display, based on the importance of religion. On June 27, 2005, Justice Souter writing for the majority affirmed the Sixth Circuit ruling. The Court held that the plaintiffs’ sufficiently demonstrated that the defendants’ original displays and revised displays were done with a religious purpose, which is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause. The court found the defendants’ repeal of their display authorizations before oral argument to be minimally significant in proving their displays had a secular basis. 545 U.S. 844.

On September 28, 2007 Judge Coffman ordered the plaintiffs claims against defendant Harlan County School District dismissed with prejudice and denied both the plaintiffs’ and the defendants’ motions for summary judgment on the grounds that the second display, which was the basis for the motion for dismissal, no longer existed. The only relevant legal issue in the case was whether the defendants had taken action after the Supreme Court decision to erect displays with a predominantly secular purpose. The Judge also referred the case to settlement, whereupon the Defendants made slight policy changes. 2007 WL 2903210.

On August 4, 2008, the District Court declared the first, second, and third displays unconstitutional and entered a permanent injunction against all three displays. The Judge also reversed its ruling in the previous order dismissing the claim against defendant Harlan County without prejudice, because there is no guarantee that the prohibited conduct would not resume in the future.

On March 13, 2009, the District Court granted the plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees and costs, awarding $393,798.00 in attorneys' fees and $8,133.34 in costs. 2009 WL 720904.

On June 9, 2010 the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's permanent injunction. 607 F.3d 439. The parties signed a joint notice of satisfaction of judgment on December 21, 2011.

The case is now closed.

Joshua Arocho - 06/15/2012
Mackenzie Walz - 10/27/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Establishment Clause
Content of Injunction
Monitoring
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) McCreary County, Kentucky
Plaintiff Description The ACLU of Kentucky and several residents of three Kentucky counties.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Affiliates (any)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 11/18/1999
Case Closing Year 2011
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
E.D. Ky.
12/21/2011
6:99-cv-00507-JBC
FA-KY-0003-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
E.D. Ky.
05/05/2000
Order [ECF# 15] (96 F.Supp.2d 679)
FA-KY-0003-0012.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
E.D. Ky.
06/22/2001
Order [ECF# 61] (145 F.Supp.2d 845)
FA-KY-0003-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
U.S. Court of Appeals
12/18/2003
Opinion (354 F.3d 438)
FA-KY-0003-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
U.S. Court of Appeals
03/23/2004
Order (361 F.3d 928)
FA-KY-0003-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Google Scholar
U.S. Supreme Court
10/12/2004
Order granting petition for writ of certiorari (543 U.S. 924)
FA-KY-0003-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Supreme Court
06/27/2005
Opinion (545 U.S. 844)
FA-KY-0003-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
U.S. Supreme Court
06/28/2005
Order denying cert. (545 U.S. 1152)
FA-KY-0003-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
E.D. Ky.
09/28/2007
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 153]
FA-KY-0003-0001.pdf | Detail
E.D. Ky.
08/04/2008
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 173]
FA-KY-0003-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Ky.
08/04/2008
Judgment [ECF# 174]
FA-KY-0003-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Ky.
03/13/2009
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 195] (2009 WL 720904)
FA-KY-0003-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
06/09/2010
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 207-1] (607 F.3d 439)
FA-KY-0003-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Breyer, Stephen Gerald (First Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
FA-KY-0003-0010
Clay, Eric L. (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
FA-KY-0003-0005 | FA-KY-0003-0007 | FA-KY-0003-0008
Coffman, Jennifer B. (FISC, E.D. Ky., W.D. Ky.) show/hide docs
FA-KY-0003-0001 | FA-KY-0003-0002 | FA-KY-0003-0003 | FA-KY-0003-0004 | FA-KY-0003-0006 | FA-KY-0003-0012 | FA-KY-0003-9000
Gibbons, Julia Smith (W.D. Tenn., Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
FA-KY-0003-0007 | FA-KY-0003-0008
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
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O'Connor, Sandra Day (SCOTUS) show/hide docs
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Rehnquist, William Hubbs (SCOTUS) show/hide docs
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Ryan, James Leo (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
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Scalia, Antonin (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
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Souter, David Hackett (First Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
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Stevens, John Paul (Seventh Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
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Thomas, Clarence (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
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Todd, James B. (E.D. Ky.) show/hide docs
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Wier, Robert Earl (E.D. Ky.) show/hide docs
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Plaintiff's Lawyers Falk, Kenneth J. (Indiana) show/hide docs
FA-KY-0003-0010
Flynn, Kathleen M (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Friedman, David A. (Kentucky) show/hide docs
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Griffith, Caroline Laurie (Kentucky) show/hide docs
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Hoffman, Everett Clay (Kentucky) show/hide docs
FA-KY-0003-0006 | FA-KY-0003-9000
Lutgens, Lili R (Kentucky) show/hide docs
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Shapiro, Steven R. (New York) show/hide docs
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Sharp, William E. (Kentucky) show/hide docs
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Defendant's Lawyers Amshoff, Theodore H. (Kentucky) show/hide docs
FA-KY-0003-0006 | FA-KY-0003-9000
Corry, David M (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Crampton, Stephen M (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Green, Bruce W (Florida) show/hide docs
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Lindevaldsen, Rena M (Florida) show/hide docs
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Martin, Lindsey F (Florida) show/hide docs
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McAlister, Mary E (Florida) show/hide docs
FA-KY-0003-0010
Ray, Ronald D. (Kentucky) show/hide docs
FA-KY-0003-0006 | FA-KY-0003-9000
Stanley, Erik William (Virginia) show/hide docs
FA-KY-0003-0006 | FA-KY-0003-0007 | FA-KY-0003-0008 | FA-KY-0003-0010 | FA-KY-0003-9000
Staver, Mathew D. (Florida) show/hide docs
FA-KY-0003-0006 | FA-KY-0003-0007 | FA-KY-0003-0008 | FA-KY-0003-0010 | FA-KY-0003-9000
Staver, Anita L (Florida) show/hide docs
FA-KY-0003-0010
Turner, Johnnie L (Kentucky) show/hide docs
FA-KY-0003-0007 | FA-KY-0003-0008 | FA-KY-0003-0010 | FA-KY-0003-9000
Other Lawyers Clement, Paul D. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-KY-0003-0010
Huggins, David R. (Virginia) show/hide docs
FA-KY-0003-0007

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