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Law School Case Brief

Jones v. Perry - 215 F. Supp. 3d 563 (E.D. Ky. 2016)

Rule:

When state officials disrupt the free exercise of fundamental rights, courts will scrutinize their conduct with unusual precision and care. 

Facts:

Bradley Jones and Kathryn Brooke Sauer simply want to get married. Defendant Sue Carole Perry, the Shelby County Clerk, refuses to issue them a marriage license. She insists that Kentucky law prohibits her from doing so unless both Jones and Sauer physically appear at the clerk's office to apply for a license. Sauer happens to be a prisoner at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women, so she cannot travel to the clerk's office for this purpose.

Issue:

Was the county clerk’s in-person requirement constitutional?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

Although the county clerk may believe that Kentucky law compels her to prevent Jones and Sauer from exercising their fundamental right to marry, the relevant statutes tell a different story. In fact, these statutes make no mention of an in-person requirement, nor do they otherwise discuss the significance of a marriage applicant's presence at the clerk's office. The blanket in-person requirement is a contrivance of Perry and other government officials of this Commonwealth. It is also unconstitutional. For that reason, the federal district court entered an order that permanently enjoins Perry from enforcing this requirement against Jones in the future.

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