Saturday, July 22, 2017

Plaintiffs Awarded Attorneys' Fees In Suit Against County Clerk Kim Davis

In Miller v. Davis, (ED KY, July 21, 2017) a Kentucky federal district court awarded $224,703 in attorney’s fees and costs to plaintiffs who previously obtained a preliminary injunction against Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis.  Davis, citing her religious beliefs, stopped issuing marriage licenses entirely in order to avoid issuing licenses to same-sex couples.  The court yesterday held that plaintiffs were entitled to attorneys' fees because they were the “prevailing party” --they obtained a preliminary injunction that granted the relief they sought. The ultimate dismissal of the case after a change in the law rendered it moot did not change this conclusion.  The court, in a 50-page opinion, said in part:
In this case, the Plaintiffs “prevailed by every measure of victory.” The relief Plaintiffs obtained—the ability to secure marriage licenses and marry—was “preliminary” in name only. It is not the “fleeting” success that fails to establish prevailing-party status.  After the Court obtained compliance with the Preliminary Injunction Orders, Plaintiffs received marriage licenses. And once the plaintiff-couples received their marriage licenses, their rights were not subject to revocation….
... Couples continued to receive marriage licenses after the Kentucky General Assembly amended the law – albeit, on a form Davis felt more comfortable with. Therefore, Plaintiffs’ preliminary-injunction success materially altered their legal relationship with Davis, and that court-ordered change was enduring and irrevocable. Accordingly, the Court concludes that the Plaintiffs “prevailed” within the meaning of § 1988 and are entitled to attorneys’ fees.
The court also held that the state of Kentucky, not Rowan County, is liable for the attorneys’ fees. AP reporting on the decision says Davis plans to appeal, but the state of Kentucky has not yet decided whether it will appeal the ruling. [Thanks to Tom Rutledge for the lead.]