On a Tuesday in late May 2002, AU received a telephone call from the West Virginia ACLU asking if we could represent a senior at St. Albans High School in St. Albans, West Virginia, in his effort to prevent the inclusion of a prayer in his graduation ceremony to be held two days later. AU’s legal staff rushed to draft and file a Complaint and a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order the following day.
The court set a hearing for 11 a.m. on the day of the graduation ceremony. AU Litigation Counsel Alex Luchenitser flew to West Virginia to present argument at the hearing while other attorneys remained in Washington, D.C., to prepare and file a Reply Brief to the County’s opposition papers, which were filed the morning of the hearing. The hearing was completed, the Reply Brief was submitted, and the court took the matter under submission.
At approximately 5 p.m., two hours before the graduation ceremony was scheduled to begin, the Judge issued an order prohibiting the presentation of the prayer. Thereafter, we reached a settlement agreement with the County in which they agreed to a court-enforceable order forbidding them from facilitating the delivery of religious messages at graduation ceremonies and requiring them to pay attorneys’ fees.