After a judge ruled last week in favor of a Cranston High School West student who requested the removal of a prayer banner hanging in her school, her attorneys have asked the city to compensate her legal fees, a sum of $173,000.
The case, which a federal court found violated the First Amendment earlier this month, was filed by attorneys Thomas Bender and Lynette Labinger on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union. The plaintiff was Jessica Ahlquist, a junior, who first spoke out against the 50-year-old banner last April.
"This should come as no surprise," Labinger said. "The city was well aware that if they lost this case, they would be responsible for the plaintiff's fees," she said.
Any court fees would be covered by the Cranston School Department, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung has said, according to WPRI.com.
The plaintiff's right to be compensated has been protected by the Supreme Court on many occasions to encourage attorneys to take on cases related to constitutional rights and civil liberties, Labinger said. The city may attempt to negotiate the $173,000 price tag, but Labinger said it is unlikely the city will be able to refuse the request.
Cranston city officials were not available for comment. The city still must decide whether to appeal the federal court's ruling.
— Kat Thornton