Roy Moore can’t catch a break – nor should he.
U.S. District Court Judge W. Harold Albritton handed the embattled chief justice another blow yesterday, ruling that Moore can’t be reinstated to the Alabama Supreme Court while the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) tries him on six ethics charges. Moore, with the assistance of Liberty Counsel, had sued the JIC, arguing that the process violated his rights.
“Alabama's automatic removal provision goes against the assumption in law that a person is innocent until proven otherwise,” the Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver told Al.com, a statewide news outlet. Staver said they intended to appeal the verdict.
Moore, meanwhile, is set to attend his first JIC hearing on Monday. He’ll do so reluctantly: He and Staver have both claimed that the JIC has no jurisdiction over Moore and that he violated no laws by ordering the state’s probate judges to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s verdict in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Tough times for Alabama's most famous culture warrior. Credit: Religion News Service/Charles Nesbitt
The JIC obviously doesn’t agree.
As Chris Geidner reported for Buzzfeed News, the JIC says Moore “flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority as the chief administrative office of Alabama’s judicial branch in substituting his individual opinion for that of the Court.”
That doesn’t bode well for Moore. The JIC has removed him from office once before, after he lost a very public fight to display the Ten Commandments at the state Judicial Building.
But Moore may have another career in mind. Yesterday, the far-right site WorldNet Daily reported that Moore won an Alabama Forestry Association poll of possible Republican gubernatorial candidates for the 2018 race. It’s not immediately clear if the poll is truly accurate. There’s no information available about its methodology. And even if it is accurate, it doesn’t mean much right now. The race is still two years away.
Moore has tried to run for governor before. In 2006, he competed in the Republican primary but lost badly to his opponent, Bob Riley. The timing is important. Moore had been removed from his post three years prior in a situation that had become dear to the nation’s culture warriors. That’s a popular cause in conservative Alabama, but Moore was still unable to translate that acclaim into a successful political career. He’s only been able to win seats on the state Supreme Court.
But that option will be closed to him from now on, even if he isn’t disbarred. Alabama law prohibits justices from running for re-election after they turn 70. Moore will turn 70 next February, and the next election for his current seat is in 2018.
These are significant political stakes for Moore, but he may have finally started a fight that he cannot win.