Kentucky must pay $224,000 legal fees to ACLU over Kim Davis case

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CINCINNATI (KT) -- A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a lower court ruling awarding $224,000 in attorney’s fees and costs in the case of couples who were refused marriage licenses by former Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis.

A panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court in Cincinnati agreed with a lower court that the state of Kentucky is responsible for paying the legal costs to the American Civil Liberties Union.


“The Court of Appeals correctly found that April Miller and the other ACLU clients prevailed by forcing the former Clerk to abandon her unlawful policy of withholding marriage licenses from the public,” said William E. Sharp, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Kentucky. “By affirming the sizeable fee award, the Court also sent a strong message to other government officials in Kentucky that it is not only unconstitutional to use public office to impose one’s personal religious views on others, but that it also can be a very expensive mistake.”


In 2015, Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to any eligible couples, same-sex or different-sex, after the freedom to marry was extended to all couples. The ACLU of Kentucky then filed a lawsuit on behalf of four Rowan County couples.


U.S. District Court Judge David L. Bunning forced the Clerk’s office to abandon its “no marriage license” policy thus allowing the ACLU clients, and others, to receive the marriage licenses to which they were legally entitled.


Judge Bunning subsequently directed the state to pay the couples’ attorney’s fees and costs totaling $224,000. Both Rowan County and the state appealed the ruling, seeking to avoid responsibility for the fees.


Davis, who was elected Rowan County Clerk as a Democrat in 2014, switched her party affiliation to Republican in her 2018 run for re-election, was defeated by Democrat Elwood Caudill, Jr.


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