Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning’s son, a federal judge who jailed a county clerk in Kentucky for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex partners in violation of her constitutionally protected religious rights and made similar threats to her co-workers, now has ordered that taxpayers in the state pay the ACLU $223,000.
That’s even though a magistrate in the case against Kim Davis concluded the LGBT activists weren’t the prevailing party, a requirement for being awarded attorneys’ fees.
WND reported in July when Judge David Bunning decided to award taxpayer funds to the LGBT activists, even though Magistrate Judge Edward Atkins, who was assigned to reviewed the evidence, proposed an order rejecting the ACLU’s demands. Atkins concluded “the plaintiffs are not ‘prevailing parties’ … and are therefore not entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees.”
David Bunning’s father, Jim, once threw a perfect game, later served several years in the U.S. Senate, and died in May at the age of 85. Jim Bunning threw no-hitters in both the American and National leagues, and the New York Times described his as a “fervently conservative and often cantankerous” member of the U.S. House, then the Senate.
David Bunning simply declared the ACLU was the prevailing party while admitting the plaintiffs were unsuccessful in their demands for a permanent injunction, class certification, declaratory judgment, trial by jury and damages. In fact, the plaintiffs won only a temporary injunction, after which the cases were dismissed because the law was changed.
Bunning’s order was appealed, but he concluded on Monday that he was right all along.
The current ruling pertained to Kentucky’s request to penalize Davis and Rowan County.
Bunning said Davis was representing the state in her issuance of marriage licenses. The judge claimed that the state insistence that it had been dismissed from the case was incorrect. Actually, the entire case had been dismissed, Bunning said, but then revived.
The judge contended he didn’t make a mistake.
In his advocacy for same-sex “marriage,” Bunning noted that he knew of two duos who “received a marriage license” because of the preliminary injunction. He identified them as David Ermold and David Moore, and James Yates and Will Smith.
Bunning determined “the court will not reduce plaintiffs attorneys’ fees because they did not obtain the permanent injunction, declaratory judgment, class certification, jury trial, or damages they sought.”
His decision means the lawyers who fought to force Davis to violate her religious faith — William Sharp, Daniel Canon, Laura Landenwich, L. Joe Dunman, Ria Tabacco Mar, James Esseks, Daniel Mach and Heather Weaver — must be paid up to $700 per hour for their work, with Sharp cashing in with a payment of more than $78,000.
Bunning ordered the payment because the “marriage-license functions fall squarely within the traditional purview of state government.”
But Bunning put quote marks around “prevailed” in his ruling, writing the “plaintiffs ‘prevailed’ against Kim Davis.”
He affirmed his decision to have taxpayers pay off the ACLU even though the preliminary injunction under which same-sex duos “obtained relief” later was vacated.
Specifically, Bunning claimed, “plaintiffs’ unsuccessful claims for relief do not prevent them from ‘prevailing.'”
Atkins had recommended a denial of payment because the plaintiffs “did not receive ‘the full and final relief they sought'” and the case was made moot because of voluntary actions on the part of the Kentucky general assembly, which changed the law to vindicate Davis’ objections.
After the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage decision in 2015, which has been characterized by Chief Justice John Roberts as “untethered” to the U.S. Constitution, Davis simply had her office stop issuing marriage licenses, so no one would be discriminated against.
It was the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that vacated Bunning’s orders punishing Davis, after the legislature changed the state law.
Liberty Counsel had worked with Davis throughout the case, and chairman Mat Staver had described Bunning’s determination that the ACLU was a prevailing party as “contrary to the law because the legislature mooted the case by passing a law that provides for the precise religious liberty accommodation Kim Davis sought.”
Staver continued: “While Kim Davis and Rowan County are not liable for fees and costs, neither is the Commonwealth of Kentucky. … The magistrate correctly found that the plaintiffs were not the prevailing parties. That ruling is consistent with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.”
Staver said Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s executive order and the legislature “mooted the case and [that] prevents the plaintiffs from being prevailing parties.
“Without prevailing party status, there can be no attorney’s fees.”
Davis’ lawyers long have contended that the case was not so much about same-sex duos obtaining licenses as it was an attack on Christians.
Davis ended up in jail for six days in 2015 when Bunning, responding to the “gay” activists’ demands, ordered her to violate her Christian beliefs or go to the slammer. Her lawyers, at that time, noted a recurring theme in court filings from homosexuals: punish Kim Davis.
Liberty Counsel’s Staver said: “It has never really been about a marriage license – Rowan County has issued the licenses – it is about forcing their will on a Christian woman through contempt-of-court charges, jail and monetary sanctions.”
The attorneys said then: “The fact is the plaintiffs already possess marriage licenses from Rowan County that have been approved as being valid by the Kentucky governor and Kentucky attorney general. Kim has taken all reasonable steps and good faith efforts to substantially comply with this court’s orders.”
In fact, the lawyers pointed out that some of the plaintiffs who sued Davis had to travel through or around jurisdictions where they would have been allowed to purchase licenses in order to get to Davis’ office, where they knew the licenses were not being issued.
The evidence indicated the objective of the court cases was not simply to obtain licenses, but to reduce the Constitution’s religious rights to a secondary role behind homosexual rights. they said.