ACLU Seeks $400,000 for Ten Commandments Cases

LEXINGTON, KY -- A long legal fight over courthouse displays of the Ten Commandments could cost two Southern Kentucky counties nearly $400,000, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Sunday edition.

In a motion filed this week, attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky requested fees of $390,588 for representing people who challenged the displays in the halls of the Pulaski and McCreary County courthouses, plus $8,133 in expenses, reports the Herald Leader.

The request comes after the ACLU won its request for an injunction barring the displays. Congress approved rules decades ago under which the losers in civil-rights cases must pay the legal fees of the winners.

The goal was to make it possible for citizens and attorneys to pursue potentially expensive lawsuits to defend civil rights and uphold constitutional principles when government doesn't do the right thing, said David A. Friedman, the lead attorney for the ACLU on the case, the newspaper reports.

"It's a core economic principle for how everyone's civil rights and civil liberties can be protected and defended when government acts in a lawless way," Friedman said.

Mathew Staver, the attorney representing the counties, said he will argue that it would be premature to award the ACLU's attorney fees because the case is still pending, and that the amount they've requested is too high, reports the newspaper.

"It's absurd, in my view," said Staver, founder and chairman of the conservative Christian legal group Liberty Counsel.

The motion from the ACLU, however, said the request was not only reasonable, but conservative. The organization chose to bill primarily only for the 1,283 hours Friedman worked on the case since 1999, and did not include time that most other lawyers spent on the case, according to the motion, reports the Herald-Leader.

Attorneys bill by the hour. The motion requests an hourly fee of $300 for Friedman; that is well within the range attorneys receive for such work, according to the document.

If the counties do have to pay the ACLU's fees at some point, it's possible insurance would cover the payments. The lawsuit started in 1999, after local officials posted copies of the Ten Commandments in the courthouses.

The ACLU sued on behalf of residents in each county, arguing that posting the Biblical laws violated the First Amendment ban on government endorsement of a particular religious doctrine, the Herald-Leader reports.

U.S. District Judge Jennifer Coffman ordered the local governments to take down the copies. The counties later put up new displays of the religious laws with other documents such as the Declaration of Independence.

That was an attempt to define the collections as non-religious historical and educational displays, but Coffman ordered the counties to remove the Ten Commandments.

A federal appeals court said putting up the additional documents was a sham to cover the "blatantly religious" motive for putting up the Ten Commandments. The counties and school system appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the newspaper reports.

A divided high court ruled in 2005 that the displays violated the Constitution, though it left open the possibility that the counties could cure their earlier problems in posting the Ten Commandments and someday put them back on the courthouse wall.

The counties have a motion pending before Coffman arguing they have done that. They passed resolutions last year making clear that a display of the Ten Commandments and other documents would have a secular purpose, the counties argue, reports the newspaper.

The ACLU, however, argues that the counties are trying to post the same displays for the same reasons as before.

The counties also are appealing Coffman's injunction against posting the three displays they put up earlier containing the Ten Commandments.

Copyright - The Lexington Herald-Leader

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  • by Ha, Ha... Location: KY on Sep 12, 2008 at 09:48 AM
    Seems like the non-believers get awfully defensive when their grand points are proven innacurate...
  • by A Location: R on Sep 11, 2008 at 12:20 AM
    SO did all you "christians" miss the salem witch hunts and the puritans that founded this country? Obviously so huh? WHat about the horrible catholic irish that no one wanted 100years ago? Then JFK made history as the 1st catholic president. All you "christians" need to realise that the foudnign fathers were not baptists. They didnt share your over fed non social darwinisn views. Others wise theyd have laid belly up for gods will instead of doing something. How many great things have come from the vatacan? The crusades? Denial of the holocaust? Wana keep going?
  • by Ben response on Sep 10, 2008 at 09:23 AM
    Ben, get any coin and check it. I am holding in my hand a 1942 Mercury Dime and an 1892 Morgan Silver Dollar. They both have In God We Trust on them. What web site told you this 1950s lie?
  • by Runnie on Sep 10, 2008 at 07:12 AM
    ACLU keep up the good work, the right wingers in this country are so far out there.
  • by me Location: ky on Sep 10, 2008 at 07:04 AM check it out Bart,
  • by j on Sep 10, 2008 at 06:40 AM
    They can't spend their 400,000 in hell.
  • by Robbie Perry Location: Danville, ky on Sep 10, 2008 at 05:52 AM
    I believe that the aclu has already done enough damage to the american public. The fees must be paid I suppose, but judgement will surely come on those who oppose our Lord Jesus Christ!
  • by Rebecca Location: Hazard on Sep 9, 2008 at 08:53 PM
    I think that the 10 commanents should be posted where ever anyone wont's it to be. This is what we was rasied to belive in. I think that it is not right to us that they wont it to be took down. I teach my kids about it like my parents taught me.
  • by Brenda Location: Lexington on Sep 9, 2008 at 08:15 PM
    ACLU---bunch of atheists but when something happens, the first thing you hear is "Oh God, or oh my God". In God I trust and I believe they should also be in the schools
  • by Paul Location: Lex on Sep 9, 2008 at 05:46 PM
    I'm just curious, If all the god fearing christians in here already know the 10 commandments, why in the world would you need them posted? How many of you have the Declaration of Independence or the US Constitution posted in your churches? We see how the religious have screwed up Middle Eastern societies, you want fanaticism here? Burn them at the stake? Nice Christian thought there Mr. Edwards of Richmond.


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