Civil Rights Litigation
Claire has handled all manner of civil rights claims through every stage of litigation. She has successfully defended numerous claims against police officers, jail employees, elected officials, government administrators, and school employees under both Kentucky law and federal civil rights statutes, including claims under:
• 42 U.S.C. § 1983
• Americans with Disabilities Act
• Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
• Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
• Kentucky Whistleblower Act
• Kentucky Civil Rights Act
• Kentucky tort law
Specifically, Claire has litigated cases involving nearly every condition of an inmate’s confinement in local jails from alleged excessive force, to medical needs, to failure to prevent harm, such as suicide or an inmate assault. Through this experience, Claire understands the constitutional standards governing these claims and has been successful in using provisions in the Prison Litigation Reform Act and sovereign and qualified immunity to protect her clients.
Claire has also defended a number of police officers and law enforcement agencies on Fourth Amendment claims arising from the arrest of suspected criminals. She has helped to obtain qualified immunity and summary judgment for numerous officers and deputies sued under § 1983 for excessive force, false arrest, malicious prosecution, and even wrongful death. Likewise, she has helped to dispel numerous attempted municipal policy claims under 1983 or under Kentucky law.
Claire has also defended several local government entities and employees against the claims of their employees. She has successfully secured judgment as a matter of law on numerous claims involving employment discrimination, retaliation, or harassment. In addition, she has handled numerous claims alleging gender, race, or disabilities discrimination or sexual harassment.
In addition to her active litigation practice, Claire provides vital day-to-day guidance for school districts and school officials. Through her litigation experience, Claire has gleaned a detailed knowledge of the various civil rights statutes imposing substantive obligations on school districts, including the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Claire uses this knowledge to guide her school clients toward a sound approach as they serve their students.
Claire is also knowledgeable of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) and provides ongoing consultation to her clients to ensure that the request for and production of student records is done in a compliant manner. Student records are frequently requested by parents, members of the public, other government agencies, and attorneys for purposes of litigation, and FERPA imposes numerous limitations on the disclosure of student records in each situation. Claire regularly reviews records and requests for records to ensure that school districts comply with open records requirements while honoring student privacy rights. Claire also regularly attends board of education meetings and is experienced in guiding board members to ensure compliance with open meetings laws.
Claire assists school districts in numerous employment matters with teachers, administrators, or classified staff members. She has assisted her clients in developing strategies to avoid problems in taking actions against employees and preparing charging documents to notify employees of suspected disciplinary infractions. Claire is familiar with the due process requirements governing the discipline of both certified and classified staff and she has capably represented school district clients at meetings with the employee’s attorneys or union representative.
In addition to her general knowledge of the broader body of law governing school districts, Claire is specifically familiar with those pertaining to the education of disabled students. She has successfully litigated and mediated numerous claims under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Americans with Disabilities Education Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Each of these statutes imposes complicated procedural and substantive requirements on school districts to prohibit discrimination against and ensure the provision of an appropriate education to disabled students.
Claire has demonstrated her understanding of these requirements by successfully defending school districts in due process hearings filed with the Kentucky Department of Education and appealed to federal court. In several of these hearings, Claire has been able to marshal the proof and law to persuade Hearing Officers and the Exceptional Children Appeals Board that her clients offered the student a free appropriate education. In still others, Claire assisted her clients in avoiding continued litigation by negotiating settlements of disputes about services on terms favorable to the school district.
In addition, Claire provides day-to-day guidance regarding special education matters to her school district clients. She regularly works with administrators to help them resolve disputes with parents regarding services. Claire understands that emotion regularly plays a part in the disputes that arise between school districts and the parents of disabled students, but she guides her clients to work past that emotion to achieve a compliant and sound response. In furtherance of this goal, Claire has attended numerous IEP team meetings to provide guidance regarding the procedural obligations for those meetings and to facilitate group discussion of the substantive components of the IEP.
The following stories are just a few examples of the ways that Claire has achieved great results for her clients:
From 2009 through 2011, 16 inmates of the Campbell County Detention Center filed claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Campbell County and its officials for alleged deliberate indifference to medical needs. They sued simultaneously in an effort to fabricate a claim against the County for an alleged pattern and practice of civil right violations. Claire spearheaded discovery in these matters and did the principal drafting of the dispositive Motions for Summary Judgment on the Plaintiffs’ claims which demonstrated that none of the Plaintiff could show a violation of his or her constitutional rights. Last year, the Eastern District of Kentucky issued decisions which granted summary judgment to the County and its employees on all of the claims:
- Holt v. Campbell County, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79828 (E.D. Ky. June 8, 2012)
- Holt v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80252 (E.D. Ky. June 7, 2013)
- Holt v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85841 (E.D. Ky. June 19, 2013)
- Holt v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94159 (E.D. Ky. July 5, 2013)
- Holt v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101028 (E.D. Ky. July 19, 2013)
- Holt v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132607 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 17, 2013)
- Holt v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132609 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 17, 2013)
- Holt v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 137095 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 25, 2013)
- Bramble v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135530 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 23, 2013)
- Bramble v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135533 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 23, 2013)
- Bramble v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138067 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 26, 2013)
- Bramble v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138072 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 26, 2013)
- Bramble v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138073 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 26, 2013)
- Bramble v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 139214 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 27, 2013)
- Bramble v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146627 (E.D. Ky. Oct. 10, 2013)
- Brown v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121452 (E.D. Ky. Aug. 26, 2013)
Last year, Claire represented a school district in a three-day due process hearing regarding a student’s eligibility for special education services under the IDEA. As lead counsel, Claire conducted the cross-examination of both petitioners. Claire’s cross-examination was so effective that the Hearing Officer made findings that neither petitioner was credible. These findings ultimately supported the Hearing Officer’s decision to find for the School District on all counts. In re: Student with a Disability, 113 LRP 26972 (KY SEA June 3, 2013).
Claire has also successfully litigated special education matters in federal court. Last year, she represented a school district in a suit for damages for alleged violations of the IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. In a well-researched motion to dismiss, however, Claire explained to the Eastern District of Kentucky that the Plaintiff’s claims had to be dismissed on exhaustion grounds since no due process proceedings had been attempted. Horton v. Boone County School District, 62 IDELR 25, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129389 (E.D. Ky. 2013). Due to the Court’s decision, the case was later favorably settled without an appeal.
- Author, “Did the Supreme Court Strip Away the Authority of School Officials? Searches in School and the Fourth Amendment”, Lex Loci, August, 2010
- Featured attorney in “Convene 504 Team When Physician’s Note Indicates Improvement in Child’s Condition” in LRP’s “E-Connections” on February 22, 2012
- Featured attorney in “Tips to Ensure Your Homebound Instruction Policy Doesn’t Discriminate” in LRP’s “E-Connections” on September 24, 2012
- Co-Author of Chapter 22 on “Municipal Liability” of the Kentucky League of Cities 2013 City Officials Legal Handbook
- Author, “Miranda in Schools: To Warn or Not to Warn” Inquiry & Analysis, October, 2013, a publication of the National School Board Association, Council of School Attorneys
- Author, “Supreme Court to Decide Significant Case Affecting Qualified Immunity,” DRI Governmental Liability Newsletter, Vol. 20 Issue 1, April 25, 2014
- “Settling Special Education Disputes”, Kentucky School Board Association Council of School Board Attorneys Summer Meeting, July 12, 2013
- “Immunity Issues in Kentucky”, Northern Kentucky Bar Association’s Free CLE Day, April 26, 2013
- Continuing Education Training Session for Covington Independent Public School District Administrators on both special education matters and student privacy rights on August 16, 2010
- Continuing Education Training Sessions for the Boone County School District regarding IDEA and the IEP Process, October 13, 14, & 15, 2009
Claire is a native of Northern Kentucky and lives with her daughter and husband in Union, Kentucky. Given her local roots and family ties, she is committed to serving and improving the community. For the last two years, Claire has participated with her colleagues at Adams, Stepner, Woltermann & Dusing in the Adopt-a-Class program as a pen-pal and mentor to four students at John G. Carlisle Elementary School in Covington, Kentucky. In addition, she is a member of the Brighton Emerging Leaders, a young professional group developed to support Brighton Center through fundraising and volunteer activities. In January, 2014, Claire was also named as a member of the Board of Directors for Welcome House.
Claire has also been active in numerous professional organizations devoted to improving the legal profession since she began practicing. She is an active member of the Northern Kentucky Chamber Women’s Initiative, Northern Kentucky Bar Association, the Kentucky Defense Council, DRI, and both the National and Kentucky School Board Association Council of School Attorneys. From 2010 to 2013, Claire served as the Chair of the Northern Kentucky Bar Association Women Lawyers Section. In her capacity as Chair, Claire developed programming to improve the lives of female attorneys in the area, organized annual fundraisers which benefitted three different local charities, and supervised and presented the Section’s Judge Judy West Scholarship. In 2014, Claire was appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court to serve as a mentor for a newly admitted attorney through its Lawyer to Lawyer Mentoring program.