Professor uses county clerk controversy as case study

Andrew Henderson

The actions of a county clerk in Rowan County continue to receive attention in the state and around the world. 

One professor, however, has taken the case and used it to his advantage in the classroom. 

On June 26, the Supreme Court reached a 5-4 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage through the U.S. Three days later on June 29, Kim Davis, a Rowan County clerk, declined to issue marriage licenses to both gay and straight couples, according to the Courier-Journal. 

John Rogers, attorney at law and management adjunct at WKU Glasgow, used the ongoing legal battle of Davis and her office as the basis for a case study in his business law class. 

Rogers is a solo practitioner. He focuses his practices in the area of bankruptcy, and his firm represents debtors in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Bowling Green Division. 

Rogers said his class is the introduction to law for business students and essentially exposes them to different aspects of the law. He said he felt Davis’ case would make a good example to teach about the relationship between the federal and state levels of government.

“It was an opportunity to teach them how the federal court system works,” Rogers said. 

Rogers said the case has offered much discussion and many questions in the classroom. He said his students are more interested with the case since it offers examples of real events instead of abstract concepts. 

“It’s a good civics lesson,” he said.

Tristan Hurt, Glasgow sophomore, is a student enrolled in Rogers’s course. He said discussing the Davis case aided him in better understanding court terms, and also praised Rogers for remaining objective on the case and taking it from solely a legal perspective.

“You can relate it back to what’s going on now … and understand what it means in a real life application,” Hurt said.

Hurt said he believes Davis’s case has turned into a religious issue when in fact it is a legal issue. 

“She wasn’t in jail because she was a Christian, she was in jail for not doing her job,” he said. 

Rogers said much classroom discussion surrounded the concept of the rule of law. Rule of law is an important concept that began in the 1801 Marbury v. Madison case, he said. 

According to the American Bar Association’s publication “Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of Marbury v. Madison: The Supreme Court’s First Great Case,” the rule of law means “that people will obey the decision of the court, even when the ‘court’ is one judge holding court in a schoolroom … when a court decides a case, its order will be obeyed by the people in the case even if they don’t like the decision.” 

Rogers stressed how we still have the rule of law and how it is one of the principles our country was founded on. He offered an example: If a state circuit judge doesn’t agree with the death penalty, he has an obligation to impose the penalty even if he does not agree with it.

“I think it’s important for our way of life that government officials follow the rule of law, and when that doesn’t happen, things can devolve into anarchy,” Rogers said.