Good news from Alabama: Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has been suspended from the court without pay for the remainder of his term.
Technically, Moore has not been removed from office, but today’s decision by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary has that effect. He has been suspended for the rest of his term, and he can’t run again because Alabama law prohibits anyone older than 70 from being appointed to or elected to the bench. (Moore will turn 70 in February.)
Moore, you’ll recall, took several actions to block marriage equality in the state even after the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear in 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that state laws and constitutional amendments that limited marriage to heterosexual couples were unconstitutional.
A slew of complaints was filed against Moore before Alabama’s Judicial Inquiry Commission. That body investigated the matter and recommended that Moore face trial. Yesterday Moore, aided by his attorney, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, went before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. Today that body issued a 50-page ruling, finding Moore guilty on six counts.
Here are some things Roy Moore will no longer be needing.
Moore’s problems stem from a Jan. 6, 2016, “administrative order” he issued to Alabama probate judges instructing them not to perform marriages for same-sex couples. This order – issued six months after the Obergefell ruling – was clearly designed to sow confusion and lead some probate judges to stop honoring marriage equality. Many of the judges ignored it, but a few chose to listen to Moore. As a result, some same-sex couples were denied their rights.
To rectify that, Americans United and allied groups had to intervene. We secured a federal order that permanently prevents the state from enforcing its old marriage equality ban.
According to the Court of the Judiciary, Moore’s brazen administrative order represented “a failure to follow clear law and a failure to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary.”
The Court of the Judiciary found that Moore interpreted the law in a manner that was “incomplete, misleading and manipulative.” The court also said Moore “substituted his judgment for the judgment of the entire Alabama Supreme Court on a substantive legal issue in a case the pending in that Court….”
If all of this sounds familiar, there’s a reason. This is the second time Moore has been sanctioned by the Court of the Judiciary. In 2003, he was removed from the court after he defied a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state Judicial Building in Montgomery.
Americans United knows a lot about that case. We brought the challenge to the government-sponsored Decalogue along with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In short, Moore has a track record of defying federal courts. He seems to think he can make the law say whatever he wants it to. He’s wrong.
We thought we were shed of Moore in 2003. But Alabama voters, for some reason, reelected him to the state high court in 2012. This time, he really is through – as a judge, at least. He could still run for governor or some other office.
That’s something to worry about later. Today we celebrate. Roy Moore has done all the damage he can to Alabama’s courts. He’s an embarrassment, a theocrat whose legal views are anchored in the fever swamps of long-discredited, pre-Civil War legal theories of “states’ rights.”
Moore, who has only himself to blame for his predicament, has disgraced the state of Alabama long enough. We’re happy to see him go.