Icing on cake: Calif. taxpayers to pay lawyer fees for Bakersfield bakery’s win in religious liberty case

Cathy Miller, owner of Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, won a legal battle to refuse making cakes for LGBT couples, citing religious beliefs. Now, taxpayers will pay her lawyers.

California taxpayers will be on the hook for millions of dollars to cover the legal fees of a Bakersfield bakery owner. 

Kern County Superior Court Judge Eric Bradshaw ruled that the attorneys for Tastries Bakery owner Cathy Miller are owed $3.62 million following a legal victory regarding the refusal to sell cakes to LGBT couples in adherence to religious beliefs.


The backstory: The lawsuit goes back to 2017 when Miller refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple on the basis of her Christian beliefs. 

  • The California Department of Civil Rights stepped in and sued Miller for discrimination. 
  • Initially the California Department of Civil Rights was shut down by a Kern County judge, but the Fifth District Court of Appeal vacated the decision, putting it in front of Bradshaw. 
  • Last year Bradshaw ruled in favor of Miller, saying the government could not prove that she intentionally discriminated against the lesbian couple. 

The big picture: Last week Bradshaw submitted his ruling for the attorneys’ fees, coming in at $3.62 million to cover the 3,500 hours that Miller’s attorneys’ worked on the case. 

  • Miller’s lawyers, Charles LiMandri and Paul Jonna, represented Miller for free. 

What they’re saying: The California Department of Civil Rights plans to appeal the ruling once again and submitted a statement to the court disputing the ability for Miller’s lawyers to collect attorneys’ fees, saying that Miller and other defendants sued for discrimination are required to prove that the government’s action was frivolous. 

  • “The Department disagrees with the trial court that Defendants can recover attorneys’ fees under any other law,” the department said in its statement.
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