Two Rulings on Kim Davis Case

Aug 23, 2019

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued two opinions in former Rowan County Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis’ appeals. The cases of Ermold v. Davis, Yates v. Davis, and Miller v. Davis center on whether the plaintiffs are entitled to attorney fees and/or damages, and, if so, whether the Commonwealth, Rowan County, or Kim Davis is liable for payment.  

In the Miller appeal, the Sixth Circuit ruled that the Commonwealth of Kentucky is liable for attorney’s fees, not the county, nor Kim Davis. In the Ermold appeal, the court agrees with lower court Judge Bunning – that Kim in her official capacity has sovereign immunity because she acted for the state (not the county). However, the court ruled that Kim Davis has no qualified immunity as an individual. There is no final ruling on whether Kim Davis is liable for damages. The court noted that the case is at a very “early” stage and that no discovery has been conducted on this issue.

Davis will continue to argue that she is not liable for damages because she was entitled to a religious accommodation (which Gov. Bevin and the legislature granted), and that her actions did not violate clearly established rights. The Supreme Court can strike down a law but not rewrite it. As the then-president of the Kentucky Senate argued in an amicus brief, the laws of the Commonwealth on marriage were “shredded” by the Supreme Court’s ruling, and the legislature had to enact new legislation. The duties of a clerk in the area of marriage is governed in every aspect by the laws of the Commonwealth.

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