ACLU seeks to recover costs incurred in Kim Davis lawsuit
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky is seeking to recover more than $200, 000 it spent in a lawsuit against Kim Davis, above, the Rowan County clerk who refused to issue marriage licesnses to same-sex couples.
According to this report, ACLU spent $233,058 in attorneys’ fees and other expenses associated with the lawsuit it brought on behalf of several couples last year when Davis shut down marriage licence operations in Rowan County, where she is the elected county clerk, rather than issue licences to same-sex couples after the US Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land.
Both Davis and Rowan County are named as defendants in the ACLU motion, filed in this week in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
But “the motion does not call for Davis to personally pay the fees,” said ACLU spokesman Ryan Karerat.
ACLU of Kentucky Legal Director William Sharp said in a press release that the organisation aims:
To send a message to government officials that willful violations of individuals’ rights will be costly.
ACLU of Kentucky Executive Director Michael Aldridge said in the same release:
It is unfortunate that an elected official sought to use her office to withhold government services on the basis of her religious beliefs. And it is equally regrettable that the county may now have to pay for her misuse of that office and her refusal to comply with the court’s orders.
When Davis shut down marriage licence operations at her office shortly after the marriage equality ruling, she said issuing licences to same-sex couples conflicted with her Christian beliefs. After US District Judge David Bunning ordered her to comply with the law and issue licenses to all eligible couples, she still refused.
Bunning them found her in contempt of court. She spent five days in jail last autumn as a result. She was freed when her deputies began processing same-sex licences, bringing Rowan County into compliance.
Eventually the state of Kentucky changed its marriage license forms to remove the names of county clerks, first by Governor Matt Bevin’s executive order, then by legislation, and this satisfied Davis’s objections.
Last month Bunning dismissed the ACLU suits brought against Davis, noting that the state’s actions rendered them moot.
In light of these proceedings, and in view of the fact that the marriage licences continue to be issued without incident, there no longer remains a case or controversy before the Court.
But the fact that marriage licences are being issued without discrimination means the ACLU and its clients prevailed, therefore entitling the organisation to recoup the costs, ACLU officials said.
Courts recognise that when successful civil rights plaintiffs obtain a direct benefit from a court-ordered victory, such as in this case, they can be entitled to their legal expenses to deter future civil rights violations by government officials.
Liberty Counsel, the far-right legal group that represented Davis doesn’t see it that way.
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the group, said the state’s changes to marriage licence forms mean Davis actually won the case.
County clerks are now able to perform their public service without being forced to compromise their religious liberty. The case is now closed and the door has been shut on the ACLU’s attempt to assess damages against Kim Davis.
Meanwhile, it is reported here that Yanicka Parker, above, a former Broward County, Florida, court specialist who refused to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples is suing Broward Clerk of Courts Howard Forman for what she believes is religious discrimination.
In the lawsuit, Yanicka Parker claims she was wrongfully sacked after informing her employer she would not issue same-sex marriage licences following the Supreme Court’s mandate in January.
After supervisors informed her she would need to issue licences to same-sex couples, she declined to comply, citing her “Christian beliefs”.
After her sacking, Parker was reportedly evicted from her home in July, and is seeking compensation for past and future wages, bonuses and benefits she would have received, as well as additional compensation for attorney fees, “emotional harm, mental anguish, stress, anxiety and diminished reputation or stature.”
Hat tip: BarrieJohn (Kim Davis report)