David Kennedy is one of the two lawyers who won a lawsuit in Alabama legalizing same-sex marriage, but less than a year after their court victory garnered national headlines, Kennedy appears to be stepping away from the profession altogether.
As of Nov. 9, Kennedy was placed on “disability inactive status” with the Alabama Bar Association — something he himself petitioned for amid at least two pending “disciplinary matters.”
According to public documents filed with the bar association, Kennedy is prevented from “adequately defending himself” against those complaints because of a “reason of mental or physical infirmity.”
“Due to this condition Mr. Kennedy is unable to further respond to the pending bar complaint(s) at this time, and hereby requests, due to his condition, that his license be placed on inactive status,” his petition reads.
The request was granted, but a representative of the bar association told Lagniappe those “pending complaints are are not public record,” so the details and reasons behind them are unknown at this time.Lagniappe reached out to Kennedy, who declined the opportunity to comment on why he left his practice behind, the bar complaints or a pending civil suit against his former law firm.
Last January, Kennedy made a name for himself after he and attorney Christine Hernandez successfully litigated Searcy v. Strange, a lawsuit that started as an adoption case involving two female parents in Mobile County but ultimately legalized same-sex marriages statewide.
The fallout from the case caused political and judicial turmoil for months as state and local officials tried to find ways to stay the court’s decision. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on several pending challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage, all of which it overturned last June.
However, in the more recent filings from Searcy v. Strange, Kennedy and Hernandez asked the state to reimburse them for more than $200,000 in legal fees billed from the case.
Attorney General Luther Strange, the defendant in the gay marriage case, quickly responded, calling their request “excessive” for a case that involved “no discovery, no hearing and no trial.”
Strange went on to say the attorneys’ “lack of experience in civil rights law” did not justify the “$275 hourly rate” they were seeking in their compensation claims. He also suggested the pair was “seeking compensation for preparing pleadings that were not filed” that also involved “excessive time” in some instances.
Strange filed a response in late October — just a few weeks before Kennedy went inactive with the bar association. Since then, there have been no filings in the case, and Strange’s office declined an opportunity to comment for this report.
However, the fee schedules submitted by Hernandez and Kennedy were filed separately because each owns and operates separate law firms. Hernandez said she is hopeful the state will make the same distinction.
“Hopefully, any legal issues David has will not have any bearing on my fee issue in federal court,” Hernandez said.
Though his inactive status with the bar association put a hold on those two pending complaints, they aren’t Kennedy’s only legal woes, as he and The Kennedy Law Firm have recently been sued in state court by a former client.
Among other allegations of poor representation, the suit claims Kennedy presented the client, Brandon Shreves, with a forged judge’s order that nearly caused Shreves’ arrest in a child custody dispute from 2014.
Shreves’ attorney, Matt Green, did not respond to requests for comment on the case, but in the suit against Kennedy filed Dec. 12, he included in evidence a judge’s order Kennedy allegedly purported was from Mobile County Circuit Judge Rosemary Dejuan Chambers.
That order appears to grant Shreves custody of the child being disputed in the case, and according to the complaint, Shreves “believed he had lawful custody of his daughter” based on the order Kennedy gave him and on other representations made to him about his case.
That order is currently the only exhibit filed in the suit. It appears to be dated April 21, 2014, but Shreves said he never saw the document until Kennedy presented it to him a month after it was dated.
A review of state court records shows no court action on the day the order was supposedly issued. Chambers confirmed to Lagniappe it didn’t come from her, but opted not to comment further.
The lawsuit claims that, as a result of Kennedy’s action, Shreves assumed he had custody of his child and presented his ex-wife with the fake order. After a series court actions, a warrant was issued for Shreves’ arrest for the felony charge of interfering with custody.
Shreves claims he was detained by U.S. marshals after voluntarily giving them his location at a residence in Satsuma — a location Shreves’ attorney said he only went to after Kennedy instructed him to “leave Mobile” in the best interests of his child.
Once he turned over custody of his child to his ex-wife, Shreves claims the warrant against him was recalled and charges were not pursued. However, court files show attorneys representing his ex-wife used the issue against him in the custody battle — a case that was ultimately dismissed.
Shreves blames Kennedy for the case being dismissed, and also claims Kennedy’s actions led to him being “labeled a kidnapper” and to him losing “the faith and confidence of the domestic relations court” in Mobile County.
According to Shreves, when his case was dismissed locally, he expended more than $100,000 in additional legal fees and expenses in Florida, which makes up at least some of the damages his lawsuit seeks to recoup from Kennedy and his former law firm.