Thursday, December 18, 2014

4th Circuit: Appeal of Injunction Against Sectarian County Board Prayer Fails On Procedural Grounds

In Hudson v. Pittsylvania County, Virginia, (4th Cir., Dec. 17, 2014), the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed on procedural grounds an appeal from a district court's injunction against opening County Board meetings consistently with Christian invocations.  The appeals court held that a notice of appeal filed 175 days after the district court entered summary judgment for plaintiff was untimely.  The appeals court also affirmed the district court's later post-trial award of some $53,000 in attorneys' fees. Chatham Star Tribune reports on the decision.

While this appeal was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Town of Greece case. Pittsylvania County quickly asked the district court to dissolve its injunction.  As previously reported, the district court held however that "unlike in Town of Greece, where invited clergy and laypersons offered the invocations, the Board members themselves led the prayers in Pittsylvania County."  The district court said it was willing to modify the injunction to make it consistent with the holding in Town of Greece, but it did not have jurisdiction to do so until the 4th Circuit to which the case had been appealed granted at least a limited remand.  Yesterday's affirmance of the attorneys' fee award and dismissal of the remainder of the appeal presumably does not amount to a limited remand.