No Attorney Fees for ACLU

Mar 20, 2018

CINCINNATI, OHIO -- Liberty Counsel filed a brief today in Rowan County Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis’ appeal of attorney’s fees awarded to the ACLU for suing Davis in 2015 when she stopped issuing marriage licenses while seeking an accommodation for her religious beliefs. Davis previously won her fight for religious freedom when U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning issued an order dismissing the ACLU case, Miller v. Davis, along with two other 2015 marriage license lawsuits against her.

The ACLU initially obtained a preliminary injunction against Davis in 2015, ordering her to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, under her name and authority. However, Judge Bunning sent Davis to jail for six days because she would not violate her conscience. After her release, incoming Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed an executive order creating a marriage license form which is not issued under a county clerk’s name and authority. The Kentucky General Assembly made Governor Bevin’s changes permanent with a bill that passed with unanimous votes in both the State House and Senate. The changes in Kentucky law made the ACLU claims moot, and the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that the ACLU’s preliminary injunction be vacated. 

A federal magistrate judge previously denied the ACLU’s request for attorney’s fees, holding that the ACLU’s clients were not “prevailing parties” under the applicable legal standard. However, Judge Bunning overruled the magistrate judge and ordered the Commonwealth to pay the ACLU’s attorney’s fees, even though Kentucky’s highest officials made permanent the accommodation Davis sought, and the ACLU’s relief was temporary.

“The law in the Sixth Circuit is clear that plaintiffs who obtain only preliminary relief that does not end their case are not ‘prevailing parties,’” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Kim Davis won this battle for religious liberty when Governor Bevin and the Kentucky General Assembly gave her the accommodation she was always due,” said Staver.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.