Doe v. Supreme Court of Kentucky, et al., No. 3:19-cv-236 (JRW). Memorandum and Order granting dismissal entered August 28, 2020.
Doe sought admission to practice law in Kentucky after having done so successfully in Florida for nine years. During that time, Doe was diagnosed with a mental health condition. She agreed to practice with a monitor and complied with clinical recommendations.
Kentucky made multiple inquiries about Doe’s condition, demanding all medical records, convening hearings, requiring over-reaching contractual obligations but finally, after nearly two years, relenting in its insistence on conflating a mental condition with a deficit of character. Doe was admitted to practice.
Doe promptly commenced suit against the state court and bar authorities for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, defamation, and for other wrongs she asserted were inflicted upon her in the course of her pursuit of a license to practice law.
The federal court hearing her case praised her diligence in pursuing her licensure as doing so conferred a benefit not just to her but to the profession and society in general. Where it is known that attorneys suffer a disproportionately higher incidence of stress, depression, addiction and suicide than others in society, hounding and threats of disqualification by the state and the bar serve only to invite harm, the court observed, as those fearing loss or denial of licensure or the oppression of the state will not seek help, and where help is not sought, some will lose not only their cases but their lives
Nonetheless, the court determined that it could not grant Doe relief. Prospective relief could not be awarded as it would be speculative. Other relief requested by Doe, even though she had standing, could not be awarded in federal court because immunity principles forbade doing so.