Attorney joins Rowan’s defense on prayer issue

  • Posted: Friday, April 26, 2013 12:24 a.m.

SALISBURY — Rowan County commissioners have added another high-profile attorney to their defense team in the Lund vs. Rowan County lawsuit over public-meeting prayers.

During an emergency meeting Thursday — called to consider a road construction resolution — Chairman Jim Sides added consideration of a contract with lawyer Kenneth A. Klukowski to the agenda.

Vice Chairman Craig Pierce added another item related to the runway extension at Rowan County Airport.

In the contract Sides added to the agenda, Klukowski describes himself as “an Indiana-licensed attorney on faculty at Liberty University School of Law and an allied attorney affiliated with the Alliance Defending Freedom.”

Based in Washington, D.C., Klukowski is also a journalist, according to his Liberty website bio, covering the Supreme Court for the conservative website and contributing to and Fox News’ blog, Fox Forum. He has co-authored two books, “Resurgent: How Constitutional Conservatism Can Save America,” and “The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency.”

Just last week, posted a telephone interview with Klukowski, as a legal columnist for Breitbart News.

Commissioners approved Klukowski’s contract unanimously and without a word of discussion.

The contract calls for Klukowski to represent the county “pro bono” — for free — but requires the county to pay his expenses in connection with the suit. As co-counsel, he will serve “with a special focus on questions pertaining to the justiciability of this lawsuit in federal court,” the contract says. (According to the Legal Information Institute, “justiciability refers to the types of matters that the federal courts can adjudicate.”)

Under the agreement, Klukowski will withdraw from the case in August 2014 when he will begin serving as a law clerk to a judge on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Klukowski joins a legal team that so far includes the law firms of:

• David Gibbs, the Florida-based attorney who represented the parents of Karen Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman whose end-of-life case drew national attention in 2005. The Schiavos lost their bid to keep their daughter on a feeding tube, and she died.

• Bryce D. Neier, who represented Forsyth County in a legislative prayer case similar to Rowan’s. Forsyth lost.

They will defend Rowan against a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina last month on behalf of three local plaintiffs. The suit accuses commissioners of violating the First Amendment by beginning their public meetings with exclusively Christian prayers.

The suit asks for an injunction forcing commissioners to halt those prayers while the case is being decided. Last week, as part of their consent agenda, commissioners approved a prayer policy to go into effect if an injunction comes; the policy calls for volunteer chaplains to open meetings with less sectarian prayers.

Those present at the Thursday evening meeting included Sheriff Kevin Auten and N.C. Rep. Carl Ford, R-China Grove.

Ford and Rep. Harry Warren, R-Salisbury, recently drew national attention by sponsoring a The Defense of Religion Act, a resolution that said North Carolina did not have to abide by the U.S. Constitution or federal courts and could establish its own religion. Ford said the resolution was intended to show support for commissioners in the lawsuit.

He received the proposed resolution from Chairman Sides, who had received it from a Kings Mountain city councilman. The resolution, which Warren dropped, died in committee.

Other business

• Commissioners also unanimously authorized airport engineers Talbert, Bright and Ellington to prepare a “categorical exclusion” for the airport runway project for $95,000. Airport projects often can satisfy environmental requirements without formal environmental review because they have little to no impact on the human environment. Talbert and Bright is the firm that designed and did site work for the new hangar at the airport.

• As for the stated reason for the emergency meeting Thursday, commissioners unanimously approved a resolution supporting construction of an Interstate 85 interchange at Old Beatty Ford Road in southern Rowan County. Sides said the Department of Transportation had requested the resolution.

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