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Justice Kennedy Isn't a Fan of Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on November 16, 2015 5:58 AM

Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, made headlines earlier this year by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, well after the Supreme Court had ruled such couples had a fundamental right to marry. She refused to issue marriage licenses after the Supreme Court rejected her emergency stay application. She refused even as she was condemned by conservative leaders. She refused up until she was jailed. Kim Davis was good at refusing.

Her intransigence didn't make a fan out of Justice Kennedy, however. At a recent talk with Harvard Law students, the Justice condemned public officials who refuse to carry out their duties.

Justice Kennedy, and Everyone Else, Agrees: Resign Already

Just a few months ago, Kim Davis took over our lives -- and our blogs -- with her steadfast refusal to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell. Davis, the county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, would only comply with "God's authority," not SCOTUS's. The controversy crescendoed in September, when Davis was arrested for contempt of court -- and emerged a few days later in martyr-ific glory.

If Davis objected to the job she had to do, however, many thought she should just step down. Justice Kennedy, it seems, was one of that crew. (Keep in mind, Justice Kennedy was also the author of the Obergefell decision Davis defied.) In a conversation with Harvard Law School dean Martha Minow, the Justice was asked what he thought of officials who resisted complying with Court rulings, the National Law Journal reports.

His answer: they should resign. "Great respect has to be given to people who resign rather than do something they think is morally wrong," the Justice explained. But, public officials are bound to enforce the law. "It would be difficult for me to say people should ignore a decision of the Supreme Court."

The Supreme Court's Reign of Tyranny

Justice Kennedy also used the occasion to bring Godwin's Law into real life. That's the Internet adage holding that "as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." The same goes for Harvard Law talks, apparently.

When discussing Davis, Justice Kennedy quickly jumped to the Nazis. "How many judges do you think resigned the Third Reich?" he asked. "Three." The Supreme Court is Hitler now, I guess?

An Interesting Side Trip to China and the Movies

Surprisingly, Kim Davis wasn't the main focus of the talk. Justice Kennedy also used the forum to discuss attitudes towards the law around the world. In China, apparently, becoming a lawyer is the thing to do.

Many students there told Justice Kennedy that they wanted to go to law school, the Harvard Gazette reports. "I thought they had seen 'Twelve Angry Men,' but it was 'Legally Blonde,' which I had never heard of. I saw it afterwards. It's a pretty good movie."

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