Kim Davis, the infamous marriage-denying county clerk from Kentucky, could be facing more than $225,000 in legal fees. Davis, who claimed she was acting “under God’s authority” and quickly became a hero for many religious conservatives, has been hit with an appeal seeking to have her pay her opponents’ legal fees, which total $233,058.
Davis’ legal troubles began soon after her stunt last summer when four couples (two same-sex and two straight) sued her for her refusal to carry out national law. The case gained national attention after Davis was briefly imprisoned for contempt of court and made a martyr of herself. The suit itself was ultimately resolved earlier this year after Kentucky’s governor changed state law to the effect that county clerks no longer authorize marriage licenses.
Davis has not been responsible for her own legal fees, as the anti-LGBT non-profit Liberty Counsel has offered her pro bono services. Now, however, she may finally be forced to pay up as the ACLU, on behalf of the four plaintiff couples, is appealing to US District Judge David Bunning seeking an order allowing them to recoup their legal expenses. Rowan County, which Davis serves as county clerk, has already stated that it will not pay the costs, arguing that Davis was acting on her own behalf rather than the county’s.
It remains to be seen how the appeal will play out. According to William Sharp, the ACLU of Kentucky’s legal director,
“Courts recognize 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. By filing today’s motion, we hope to achieve that very objective — to send a message to government officials that willful violations of individuals’ rights will be costly”
Liberty Counsel, however, is contesting the appeal on the grounds that Davis did not technically lose the case since it was resolved by a change in state law.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.