Davis v. Coleman

Lawsuit filed on behalf of an inmate whose attempts to get married have been thwarted by both the Fayette County Register of Wills and the State Correctional Institute (SCI) in Fayette.

Court/Assoc.: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

Attorneys/Firms: Sara Rose (ACLU-PA); Alexandra Morgan-Kurtz (Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project); John Gisleson & Stephanie Reiss (Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP)

The ACLU of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project filed a lawsuit today on behalf of an inmate whose attempts to get married have been thwarted by both the Fayette County Register of Wills and the State Correctional Institute (SCI) in Fayette. In Pennsylvania, both people wishing to wed must appear in person to apply for a marriage license. Although other state prisons have allowed people who are incarcerated to meet this requirement by using the institution’s video-conferencing equipment, SCI-Fayette administrators have refused to make any accommodation, and the Fayette County Register of Wills is unwilling to travel to the facility. According to the lawsuit, the right to marry is a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution that cannot be denied because of the incarceration of one partner to the marriage.  

After the lawsuit was filed, the President Judge of the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas issued an order putting in place procedures for inmates at SCI Fayette to apply for marriage licenses via the court’s video-conferencing equipment, and SCI Fayette agreed to allow inmates to use the prison’s video-conferencing equipment for that purpose as well. The lawsuit was subsequently dismissed by the plaintiffs.

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