On Monday, a three-judge panel on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court's decision ordering the state government to pay $272,142.50 in legal fees to plaintiffs regarding COVID-19 restrictions on large worship gatherings in 2020.
At the time, plaintiffs T.J. Roberts, Randall Daniel and Sally O'Boyle attended an Easter service at Maryville Baptist Church on April 12, 2020, when they received notices by state officials who were aware of their presence at the church and warned them of future "enforcement measures," along with possible misdemeanor charges.
In response, the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and other state and local officials.
In May 2020, Obama-appointed Judge David Hale of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and allowed Maryville Baptist Church to hold in-person worship services.
Although Beshear appealed the order to pay attorney's fees passed down by the lower court, the 6th Circuit upheld the decision, The Christian Post reports. The governor contended that the plaintiff's attorneys billed excessive hours, used exorbitant rates, and should not be paid for their job performance after the injunctions allowing in-person worship services to take place.
"The district court has considerable discretion in determining the amount of a fee award, and this case offers no red flags of abuse," the ruling asserted. "The court considered the Governor's arguments, assessed the evidence and the congregants' degree of success, and clearly explained its convincing 'reasons for the fee award.'"
Roberts, one of the plaintiffs in the case, celebrated the court's ruling.
"I know a lot of people who are outraged that the TAXPAYER is on the hook for ANDY's violation," Roberts tweeted on Monday. "I share this outrage, but this outrage must be aimed at Beshear. If the people of Kentucky want to quit being taxed to pay for these court judgments, Kentucky MUST elect a governor who will actually follow the constitution."
His post also included a picture of the notice that he and the other plaintiffs received in 2020.
The notice informed Roberts that the state knew of his presence at a "mass gathering prohibited by Orders of the Governor and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.” Additionally, he was warned that it warned that "this vehicle's occupants, and anyone they came into contact with, are at risk of contracting COVID-19."
"This vehicle's license plate has been recorded," the notice stated. It asserted that "employees of the local health department will be contacting those associated with this vehicle with self-quarantine documents, including an agreement requiring this vehicle's occupants and anyone in the household to self-quarantine for 14 days." Not complying with the agreement, however, "may result in further enforcement measures."
Photo credit: Unsplash/Chuttersnap
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.