Claire E. Parsons is a Member at Adams, Stepner, Woltermann & Dusing, PLLC in Covington, Kentucky. For the last ten years, she has focused her practice in the areas of civil litigation, local government practice, school law, and domestic relations. She has represented numerous local government entities, including cities, counties, school districts and their officials in litigation and in a general counsel capacity. Claire is a frequent speaker and author, having published articles and spoken for a number of local, state, and national organizations on legal issues and law practice. In 2018, Claire founded the Sixth Circuit School Law Blog which analyzes emerging issues in education law in the Sixth Circuit and its included states, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Claire is also active in her community and has served her region and the state and various leadership and volunteer positions throughout her years of practice.
Civil Rights Litigation
Claire has handled all manner of civil rights claims through every stage of litigation. She has successfully defended numerous claims against police officers, jail employees, elected officials, government administrators, and school employees under both Kentucky law and federal civil rights statutes, including claims under:
• 42 U.S.C. § 1983
• Americans with Disabilities Act
• Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
• Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
• Kentucky Whistleblower Act
• Kentucky Civil Rights Act
• Kentucky tort law
Specifically, Claire has litigated cases involving nearly every condition of an inmate’s confinement in local jails from alleged excessive force, to medical needs, to failure to prevent harm, such as suicide or an inmate assault. Through this experience, Claire understands the constitutional standards governing these claims and has been successful in using provisions in the Prison Litigation Reform Act and sovereign and qualified immunity to protect her clients.
Claire has also defended a number of police officers and law enforcement agencies on Fourth Amendment claims arising from the arrest of suspected criminals. She has helped to obtain qualified immunity and summary judgment for numerous officers and deputies sued under § 1983 for excessive force, false arrest, malicious prosecution, and even wrongful death. Likewise, she has helped to dispel numerous attempted municipal policy claims under 1983 or under Kentucky law.
Claire has also defended several local government entities and employees against the claims of their employees. She has successfully secured judgment as a matter of law on numerous claims involving employment discrimination, retaliation, or harassment. In addition, she has handled numerous claims alleging gender, race, or disabilities discrimination or sexual harassment.
Local Government General Counsel
In addition to her active litigation practice, Claire provides vital day-to-day guidance to local government entities and their officials. Through her litigation experience, Claire has gleaned a detailed knowledge of the various civil rights statutes imposing substantive obligations on local government entities, including the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Kentucky Whistleblower Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Claire uses this knowledge to guide her clients toward a sound approach as they conduct governmental business.
Claire is also knowledgeable about the various requirements governing local governments with respect to information management and public meetings. She regularly addresses issues relating to the Kentucky Open Meetings Act and attends public meetings as counsel for local governments. In addition, she often assists with responses to requests for records under the Kentucky Open Records Act. For her school clients, Claire is attuned to the specific requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) and provides ongoing consultation to her clients to ensure that the request for and production of student records is done in a compliant manner. Student records are frequently requested by parents, members of the public, other government agencies, and attorneys for purposes of litigation, and FERPA imposes numerous limitations on the disclosure of student records in each situation.
Claire assists local government clients in numerous employment matters with staff. She has assisted her clients in developing strategies to avoid problems in taking actions against employees and preparing charging documents to notify employees of suspected disciplinary infractions. Claire is familiar with the due process requirements governing the discipline of public employees staff and she has capably represented local government entities at meetings with the employee’s attorneys or union representative.
In addition to her general knowledge of the broader body of law governing school districts, Claire is specifically familiar with those pertaining to the education of disabled students. She has successfully litigated and mediated numerous claims under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Americans with Disabilities Education Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Each of these statutes imposes complicated procedural and substantive requirements on school districts to prohibit discrimination against and ensure the provision of an appropriate education to disabled students.
Claire has demonstrated her understanding of these requirements by successfully defending school districts in due process hearings filed with the Kentucky Department of Education and appealed to federal court. In several of these hearings, Claire has been able to marshal the proof and law to persuade Hearing Officers and the Exceptional Children Appeals Board that her clients offered the student a free appropriate education. In still others, Claire assisted her clients in avoiding continued litigation by negotiating settlements of disputes about services on terms favorable to the school district.
In addition, Claire provides day-to-day guidance regarding special education matters to her school district clients. She regularly works with administrators to help them resolve disputes with parents regarding services. Claire understands that emotion regularly plays a part in the disputes that arise between school districts and the parents of disabled students, but she guides her clients to work past that emotion to achieve a compliant and sound response. In furtherance of this goal, Claire has attended numerous IEP team meetings to provide guidance regarding the procedural obligations for those meetings and to facilitate group discussion of the substantive components of the IEP.
The following stories are just a few examples of the ways that Claire has achieved great results for her clients:
In 2018, Claire successfully represented two police officers for the City of Newport who were sued for excessive force following the arrest of an intoxicated subject. Claire successfully obtained a unanimous defense verdict in favor of the officers, despite the fact that the plaintiff had significant injuries including several broken ribs and a punctured lung. See Gerken v. Marksbury, et al., 2:15-CV-148-WOB-CJS (E.D. KY).
In 2017, Claire helped secure a favorable decision for Rowan County in the litigation initiated following the refusal of Rowan County Circuit Clerk, Kim Davis, to issue marriage licenses after the United States Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision. Claire appeared at the hearing to address a Motion to hold Ms. Davis in contempt and assisted with the briefing of the successful Plaintiffs’ subsequent request for attorney fees. At the conclusion of the litigation, the Eastern District of Kentucky ruled, consistent with the County’s arguments, Ms. Davis acted as a state as opposed to a County official and the County was not responsible for attorney fees. Miller v. Davis, 267 F.Supp.3d 961 (E.D. Ky. 2017).
Late in 2015, Claire successfully represented a Harrodsburg police officer against the state law tort claims asserted against him resulting from brief physical contact with the plaintiff at the scene of a traffic collision. Though the plaintiff attempted to assert that the officer was not permitted to touch her under Kentucky law in the absence of an arrest, Claire successfully persuaded the trial court not to adopt that standard in its instructions to the jury. The trial court agreed and the jury found in the officer’s favor. Later on, the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the jury’s verdict and found that the trial court’s instructions were appropriate. See Brown v. Fournier, 2017 Ky. App. Unpub. LEXIS 705 (Ky. June 2, 2017).
In 2015, Claire successfully obtained summary judgment in favor of the City of Erlanger and its officers on a false arrest claim pursued under Kentucky law and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. After securing this ruling, Claire then defended the decision successfully at the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit by drafting a persuasive brief and arguing the case before the panel. See Lilly v. City of Erlanger, et al., 598 Fed. Appx. 370 (6th Cir. 2015).
In 2014, the Sixth Circuit issued a published decision in favor of the Boone County School District after a hard-fought due process hearing that Claire was involved in at every stage of the proceedings. Claire participated in the due process hearing in which the critical findings that the District had offered a FAPE were made. She assisted with the appeals to the Exceptional Children’s Appeals Board and the Eastern District of Kentucky. In addition, she participated in the briefing of the issue of first impression presented at the Sixth Circuit: whether a private school never agreed to by a public school district can become a disabled student’s placement for purposes of stay-put under the IDEA. In a published decision, the Sixth Circuit found that the answer to this question is “no” which absolved the District of thousands of dollars of attorney fees and private school tuition. See N.W. v. Poe, 763 F.3d 611 (6th Cir. 2014).
In 2013, Claire represented a school district in a three-day due process hearing regarding a student’s eligibility for special education services under the IDEA. As lead counsel, Claire conducted the cross-examination of both petitioners. Claire’s cross-examination was so effective that the Hearing Officer made findings that neither petitioner was credible. These findings ultimately supported the Hearing Officer’s decision to find for the School District on all counts. In re: Student with a Disability, 113 LRP 26972 (KY SEA June 3, 2013). After a series of appeals, this decision was ultimately affirmed in full by the Eastern District of Kentucky. See K.L. v. Randy Poe, et al., 2:13-CV-217-WOB-JGW (November 25, 2014).
In another case that same year, Claire represented a school district in a suit for damages for alleged violations of the IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. In a well-researched motion to dismiss, however, Claire explained to the Eastern District of Kentucky that the Plaintiff’s claims had to be dismissed on exhaustion grounds since no due process proceedings had been attempted. Horton v. Boone County School District, 62 IDELR 25, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129389 (E.D. Ky. 2013). Due to the Court’s decision, the case was later favorably settled without an appeal
From 2009 through 2011, 16 inmates of the Campbell County Detention Center filed claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Campbell County and its officials for alleged deliberate indifference to medical needs. They sued simultaneously in an effort to fabricate a claim against the County for an alleged pattern and practice of civil right violations. Claire spearheaded discovery in these matters and did the principal drafting of the dispositive Motions for Summary Judgment on the Plaintiffs’ claims which demonstrated that none of the Plaintiff could show a violation of his or her constitutional rights. Last year, the Eastern District of Kentucky issued decisions which granted summary judgment to the County and its employees on all of the claims:
- Holt v. Campbell County, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79828 (E.D. Ky. June 8, 2012)
- Holt v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80252 (E.D. Ky. June 7, 2013)
- Holt v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85841 (E.D. Ky. June 19, 2013)
- Holt v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94159 (E.D. Ky. July 5, 2013)
- Holt v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101028 (E.D. Ky. July 19, 2013)
- Holt v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132607 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 17, 2013)
- Holt v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132609 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 17, 2013)
- Holt v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 137095 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 25, 2013)
- Bramble v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135530 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 23, 2013)
- Bramble v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135533 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 23, 2013)
- Bramble v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138067 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 26, 2013)
- Bramble v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138072 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 26, 2013)
- Bramble v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138073 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 26, 2013)
- Bramble v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 139214 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 27, 2013)
- Bramble v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146627 (E.D. Ky. Oct. 10, 2013)
- Brown v. Campbell County, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121452 (E.D. Ky. Aug. 26, 2013)
- “The Introvert Lawyer’s Guide to Networking”, DRI’s For the Defense, March, 2019
- “How Meditation Helped My Law Practice and Why I Think It Could Help Yours”, Attorney Journal San Diego Edition, July, 2018
- Founder and Editor in Chief of the Sixth Circuit School Law Blog
- Author of various blog posts for 2018 Ms. JD Writers in Residence Program
- Co-Author, Kentucky League of Cities City Official Handbook, “Municipal Liability and Immunity” chapter, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019 editions
- Co-Author, “School Sanctuary: An Analysis of Federal Education Law and Immigrant Students”, KDC’s Common Defense, August, 2017
- Author, “3 Reasons Young Lawyers Should Get Involved with Community Service”, DRI’s For the Defense, July, 2017
- Co-Author, “What is An Appropriate Education: The Supreme Court’s Most Recent Interpretation of the IDEA’s FAPE Standard”, NKBA’s Lex Loci, July, 2017
- Author, “Blatantly Contradicted: Using the Rule from Scott v. Harris for More than Just Video, DRI’s For the Defense, July, 2015
- Author, “Don’t Be Daunted: Top 5 Tips for Writing Legal Articles”, DRI’s For the Defense, March, 2015
- Author, “Discovering Coverdell: Maximizing Statutory Immunity for School Officials”, KDC’s Common Defense, July, 2014
- Author, “What Is a Child’s ‘Then-Current Educational Placement’ When He Is Unilaterally Enrolled by His Parents in a Private School?”, National School Board Association’s Inquiry & Analysis, June, 2014
- Author, “Supreme Court to Decide Significant Case Affecting Qualified Immunity”, DRI Governmental Liability Newsletter, April 25, 2014
- Author, “Women Lawyers Lean In and Circle Up”, NKBA’s Lex Loci, December, 2013
- Author, “Miranda and Student Interrogations: To Warn or Not to Warn”, National School Board Association’s Inquiry & Analysis, October, 2013
- Author “Did the Supreme Court Strip Away the Authority of School Officials? Searches in Schools and the Fourth Amendment?” NKBA’s Lex Loci, August, 2010
- “Mindfulness Tools for Ethical Lawyers, Kentucky Defense Counsel Spring Seminar, March 15, 2019
- Parent and Community Leader Speaker, Northern Kentucky Education Council Fall Coalition Meeting, October 31, 2018
- “Mindfulness Tools for 21st Century Women Professionals”, Northern Kentucky Chamber Women’s Regional Summit, October 17, 2018
- Presenter, National Business Institute, “Special Education Law: The Ultimate Guide,” May 14, 2018
- Panel Member, Kentucky Bar Association Inaugural Leadership Conference, discussing leadership opportunities for lawyers and work/life balance issues faced by female lawyers, April 13, 2018
- Presenter, Kentucky School Board Association Council of School Board Attorneys Winter Meeting, “Napoleon Complexities: S. Supreme Court IDEA Precedents on Administrative Exhaustion and FAPE,” March 2, 2018
- Presenter, National Business Institute, Kentucky Special Education Law Made Simple, February, 2017
- Presenter, Kentucky City/County Managers Association, “Pension Spiking Issues in Kentucky,” February 11, 2016
- Presenter, Kentucky Association of Counties Workers Compensation and Litigation Training for County Officers, “Kentucky Open Records Act, Immunity, and Law Update,” December, 2015
- Presenter, National Business Institute, Special Education Law Made Simple, December 3, 2015
- Presenter, Kentucky Public Human Resources Association, “Recent Employment Law Decisions that Should Scare You,” May 5, 2015
- Speaker, Regional Youth Leadership Commencement Ceremony, March 8, 2015
- Presenter, Kentucky Association of Counties Workers Compensation and Litigation Training for County Officers, “Kentucky Open Records Act, Immunity, and Law Update,” May 22, 2014 & June 17, 2014
- Presenter, Kentucky School Board Association Council of School Attorneys Summer Meeting “Settling Special Education Disputes: Practical Tips to Avoid the Pitfalls,” July 12, 2013
- Presenter, Northern Kentucky Bar Association CLE Day, “Immunity Issues in Kentucky,” April 26, 2013
- Continuing Education Training Session for Covington Independent Public School District Administrators on both special education matters and student privacy rights on August 16, 2010
- Continuing Education Training Sessions for the Boone County School District regarding IDEA and the IEP Process, October 13, 14, & 15, 2009
Claire is a native of Northern Kentucky and lives with her daughters and husband in Union, Kentucky. Given her local roots and family ties, she is committed to serving and improving the community and to improving the legal profession. Claire is a past volunteer of the Adopt-a-Class program as a pen-pal and mentor to several students at John G. Carlisle Elementary School in Covington, Kentucky. From 2014 to 2017, she served as a member of the Board of Directors for Welcome House. Currently, Claire serves a Co-Troop Leader for her daughter’s Girl Scout Troop in Boone County as a member of the Board of Directors for the Northern Kentucky Education Council. Claire is a member of the Leadership Kentucky Class of 2017 and the Leadership Northern Kentucky Class of 2015, where she served as the Vice-Chair for the Class’s innovative NKY Makerspace project.
Claire has also been active in numerous professional organizations devoted to improving the legal profession, mentorship, and encouraging diversity and inclusion since she began practicing. She is an active member of Mothers Esquire, a group intended to encourage the success of mothers in the legal profession. She has led committees with the Northern Kentucky Chamber Women’s Initiative, the Northern Kentucky Bar Association, and is currently the President-Elect of Kentucky Defense Counsel, Inc. and President of the Kentucky School Board Association Council of School Attorneys. From 2010 to 2013, Claire served as the Chair of the Northern Kentucky Bar Association Women Lawyers Section. From 2014 to 2018, Claire served as a mentor to several new through the Ohio Supreme Court’s Lawyer to Lawyer Mentoring program. In 2019, Claire was recently appointed to the DRI for Life Committee, which is intended to promote wellness and work life balance for member attorneys.
Claire was recognized twice in 2015 for her professional achievement and community involvement when she received the Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky Emerging Leader Award and Legacy’s Next Generation Leader Award in the Business, Financial, and Legal Services category.