Ermold Jury in Kim Davis Case Renders $100K Verdict

Sep 13, 2023

In the trial before U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning, the jury in Ermold v. Davis rendered $100,000 against former Rowan County Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis. The plaintiffs asked for $50,000 each in damages, for a total of $100,000, alleging that David Ermold was terminated from the University of Pikeville because of the Kim Davis case. However, the Human Resource Director testified that was not true and that Ermold’s position was downsized along with other positions. Losing their basis to allege damages, the Ermold plaintiffs then changed gears during the trial to allege they should receive damages for hurt feelings. 

This Ermold jury verdict is unsound and easily sets this case up for an eventual route to the U.S. Supreme Court where religious freedom will be central to the argument along with the continued validity of the 2015 case of Obergefell v. Hodges. 

In Yates v. Davis, the jury earlier today awarded zero damages. The plaintiffs in that case originally asked for $300,000 in damages.

The Ermold and Yates cases each involve a same-sex couple who sued Davis in 2015 following the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision regarding “same-sex marriage.” The district court entered judgment against Davis in both cases, holding that she is personally liable to the plaintiffs by not issuing marriage licenses during the pendency of her request for religious accommodation. The prior ruling paid little attention to her religious freedom claims. 

Liberty Counsel Senior Litigation Counsel Daniel Schmid and Vice President of Legal Affairs and Chief Litigation Counsel Harry Mihet argued on Davis’ behalf as well as local counsel, AC Donahue. 

Liberty Counsel argued that Davis is not liable for any damages because she was entitled to a religious accommodation from issuing marriage licenses under her name and authority that conflict with her religious beliefs. When the newly elected Republican Governor Matt Bevin took office in December 2015, he granted religious accommodation to all clerks by Executive Order. Then in April 2016, the legislature unanimously granted religious and conscience accommodation to all clerks from issuing marriage licenses that conflict with their religious beliefs. 

However, Davis was entitled to an accommodation of her sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage under both the First Amendment and Kentucky law and she should not be held liable for requesting an accommodation, which she did receive in December 2015. 

Moreover, the plaintiffs suffered no damages because they could have obtained marriage licenses from any nearby clerk’s office. The plaintiffs instead created a shame case by intentionally targeting Kim Davis because of her religious beliefs. This is especially true of the Ermold plaintiffs who never thought about getting “married” until they heard about Kim Davis via social media. 

This case has the potential to go to the U.S. Supreme Court where Kim Davis will argue for religious freedom and also argue that Obergefell should be overturned. Three of the five justices in the Obergefell majority are no longer on the Court. 

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “We look forward to appealing this decision and taking this case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kim Davis has blazed the trail in Kentucky where she has obtained religious freedom for all clerks. Now it is time to extend that freedom to everyone, and that is what Liberty Counsel intends to do.” 

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