Kentucky Counties face growing legal bills to ACLU in Ten Commandments Cases

May 18, 2011

Several Kentucky counties have continued to litigate their right to post the Ten Commandments on the walls of government buildings.   They continue to lose in the courts, and now the bills for courts costs and attorney fees being awarded to the ACLU are coming home to roost.

This week, U.S. District Judge Jennifer Coffman awarded an additional $23,366 in attorney fees and costs to the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky for its work in challenging the displays, which were ruled unconstitutional.

Pulaski and McCreary counties now owe the ACLU a total of $456,881, nearly all of it for attorney fees. That figure doesn’t include mounting interest.

It’s not clear how the two counties would pay the bill, officials from both said Wednesday.

The judgment is not covered under McCreary County’s insurance policy, and the relatively poor county — hard-pressed to provide services as it is — has nothing extra in the budget this fiscal year or next to pay the bill, Judge-Executive Doug Stephens said.

Pulaski County Judge-Executive Barty Bullock was not available for comment Wednesday, but Magistrate Glenn Maxey said the fiscal court had not identified a specific way to pay the judgment.

Maxey said “We don’t have no $250,000 that we want to pay them with,” referring to the ACLU.

The counties owe the ACLU the money because the civil-rights organization won the court case challenging the counties’ decision to post copies of the Ten Commandments.

Federal law allows the winning parties in civil-rights cases to be paid reasonable fees by the losing litigants, Sharp said.

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