A Muslim flight attendant has filed an EEOC complaint against ExpressJet; among her allegations are that the company has not adequately accommodated her desire not to serve alcohol to patrons, even though she says an arrangement under which she handed off that task to colleagues had previously proved workable [CBS Detroit] Eugene Volokh has a lengthy explainer on workplace religious accommodation, and argues that Kim Davis would have had a more colorable legal case had her lawyers filed under Kentucky’s state Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). And at Cato’s Constitution Day on September 17 I’ll be discussing my forthcoming piece on EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, the hijab-accommodation case.
Former Arkansas Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee responds as follows to a federal judge’s contempt finding against Rowan County clerk Kim Davis:
Kim Davis in federal custody removes all doubts about the criminalization of Christianity in this country. We must defend #ReligiousLiberty!
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) September 3, 2015
Henceforth when I think of Gov. Mike Huckabee it will be as someone unfamiliar with the legal concept of contempt of court. Gabriel Malor has dissected Huckabee’s enthusiasm for a purported right to defy SCOTUS rulings.
Kim Davis purges the contempt if she either carries out her public duties or quits her public office. So she is not in jail for refusing to violate her religion, unless her religion requires her to keep her public job (cool religion!). And while the traditional contempt power of the Anglo-American courts does generate various disturbing results — jailing dads for breaking a court order to see their kids, for example — pressure to resign a public office rates, to me, fairly low on the scale.
Speaking for myself, if my lawyers encouraged me to commit contempt of court, I might begin to wonder whose side they were on. Kim Davis’s Liberty Counsel lawyers, of course, were at the center of the extraordinary Miller-Jenkins case, much covered at this site, in which a client not only defied a court order but kidnapped a child along the way. And from Michelle Meyer, professional obligations of lawyers counseling clients re: contempt. (N.B.: Staver says Liberty Counsel “would never counsel a client to violate the law.”)
Plus: As Chris Geidner notes at BuzzFeed, Kentucky does not provide for recall of county clerks or removal by the governor for official misconduct. And Carly Fiorina, grown-up in the room: “when you are a government employee, I think you take on a different role.”
P.S. In general, courts have a range of remedial options when faced with contempt, such as fines. Their discretion is bounded by various factors; for example, they are not supposed to resort to harsher remedies if milder ones would obtain compliance. Many of the comparisons being bandied about, by the way, involve officials who were defying some law but were not themselves personally under a court order not to do so.
A curious argument making the rounds posits it as somehow relevant that marriage law changed after Davis won elected office, supposedly upsetting her reliance on expectations of what duties she would be called on to perform. That’s not really a legal question, in the sense of casting any doubt on whether she is expected to follow the laws of Kentucky and the United States in current form if she wants to hold office. It’s more of a union shop steward’s argument — “you can’t change my job duties unless you bargain with me first.”
And: Thoughtful Dan McLoughlin what-goes-around-comes-around on lawlessness, Kim Davis, and the pervasiveness of double standards.
“Printing business has First Amendment and RFRA right to refuse to print gay pride festival T-shirts” [Eugene Volokh] The Lexington Human Rights Commission had ordered employee training for a t-shirt printer that had objected to printing messages it disagreed with, but a Kentucky trial court judge threw out the order citing both the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Kentucky’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, here applicable to a corporation as defendant since it was an incorporated business that had been the target of the discrimination complaint. Compare the bake-my-cake cases, which have generally come out the other way. And see in the U.K., “Patrick Stewart backs bakery after ‘gay cake’ court battle”: Independent, Telegraph, Katherine Mangu-Ward/Reason.
Glasgow, Kentucky: “A former Glasgow police officer is suing a Barren County gun store after being handed a loaded gun from under the counter and accidentally shooting his finger off.” [WBKO]
- “Kerr received a 37-page temporary restraining order last Friday which seeks to shut down her [too-popular] haunted house.” [Silver Spring, MD; ABC News]
- Blockbuster “60 Minutes” on the federal Social Security disability program, if you haven’t seen it yet [CBS; Chris Edwards, Tad DeHaven at Cato; ABA Journal on Kentucky lawyer and more]
- Chevron complaint against attorney Donziger over Ecuador shenanigans reaches trial Tuesday [Daniel Fisher] More: Michael Goldhaber, American Lawyer (“A Dickensian Cheat Sheet”);
- Ombudsman on South Dakota Indian foster care case: NPR “reporters and producers tried to push the story beyond the proof that they had. I don’t know why.” [NPR ombudsman]
- In America we use lawyers for that: “Rabbis Arrested in Plot to Kidnap, Torture Husbands to Force Divorce” [WSJ, CNN] From 1845, a British judge’s exquisitely arch observations on the then state of divorce law [Sasha Volokh]
- “Salvage company that lost $600M sunken ship case must pay $1M to Spain for ‘abusive litigation'” [ABA Journal]
- How Canada lost gun freedom [Pierre Lemieux, Liberty and Law]
“Kentucky claims that writing an advice column that appears in a newspaper in the state — in the specific case of their complaint, the Lexington Herald-Leader, though it appears in others as well — is not an act of freedom of the press, but rather practicing psychology without the required license.” [Brian Doherty] “John Rosemond has been dispensing parenting advice in his newspaper column since 1976, making him one of the longest-running syndicated columnists in the country.” The Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology had its attention called to Rosemond by a local complaint about a column in which he advised parents about how to handle a sullen teen but did not recommend they seek professional help. The Board, along with the state’s attorney general, proceeded to demand that he submit to a cease-and-desist order on such matters as whether he can be bylined as a “psychologist”; Rosemond is licensed as such in his home state of North Carolina, but not in Kentucky. The Institute for Justice is defending Rosemond and has filed an action against the state. [AP]
Update from the Kentucky AG’s office: don’t blame us, we let our lawyers lend themselves out for state agency work and it was by inadvertence that our letterhead was used on what went to Rosemond. As Caleb Brown notes, this opens up new questions even if it answers some others.
The Colorado Supreme Court, wisely resisting a national campaign of school funding litigation, has turned down a lawsuit arguing that the state is obliged under its constitution to step up school spending. [Denver Post, KDVR, opinion in State v. Lobato]
I’ve got a post up at Cato at Liberty about the Colorado decision, noting that although school finance litigators make a lot of noise about educational quality, they are actually on a mission of “control —specifically, transferring control over spending from voters and their representatives to litigators whose loyalty is to a mix of ideologues and interest groups sharing a wish for higher spending.” I quote from a section on school finance litigation that I wound up cutting from my book Schools for Misrule about the enormous impact such suits have had in other states:
Vast sums have been redistributed as a result. Lawmakers in Kentucky enacted more than a billion dollars in tax hikes. New Jersey adopted its first income tax. Kansas lawmakers levied an additional $755 million in taxes after the state’s high court in peremptory fashion ordered them to double their spending on schools.
The results have been at best mixed: while some states to come under court order have improved their educational performance, many others have stagnated or fallen into new crisis. Colorado is fortunate not to join their ranks. (& reprint: Complete Colorado)
P.S. From a Colorado Springs Gazette report, Jul. 31, 2011:
“Putting more money into a broken system won’t get a better results. There are improvements that could be made without money,” says Deputy Attorney General Geoffrey Blue. …
He points to a Cato Institute study that showed spending on education across the country has skyrocketed but test scores didn’t improve.
“That would mean that potentially every cent of the state budget would be shifted over to K-12 education,” says Blue, who heads the office’s legal policy and government affairs.
An international brewing company that uses a red-and-orange “#9” mark on one of its brands is suing Lexington, Ky. craft brewer West Sixth Brewing Co., which uses a black-and-green “6.” “If it was on a coaster, and the person across the table was colorblind and fairly stupid, I suppose there might be some initial confusion. … there might be a problem if somebody is holding their beer upside down.” [Lowering the Bar; Kentucky.com]
A Covington, Ky. man escaped jail time on a disorderly conduct charge after falsely yelling “bingo” in a room of bingo players. The arresting officer compared the offense to falsely yelling “fire” in a theater. [NKY.com, David Frum, Daily Beast (“You Can’t Yell ‘Bingo’ Around a Bunch of Old People and Not Expect to Be Arrested”)]