July/August 2016 Church & State - July/August 2016

Accountability In Alabama: No One Is Above The Law, Chief Justice Moore

  AU admin

With any luck, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore will be removed from the state Supreme Court soon. Moore is under investigation by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, an oversight body that examines allegations of ethics violations by judges.

Moore found himself in trouble  earlier this year when he decided to issue a strange “administrative order” to probate judges in the state telling them not to issue marriages licenses to same-sex couples.

Same-sex marriage had been illegal in Alabama. A federal court, however, struck down that ban, and the U.S. Supreme Court later ruled that denying same-sex couples the ability to marry violates two provisions of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Moore decided to defy the federal courts. It was a bad idea. A bunch of ethics complaints were filed against him. Thus, he has no one to blame but himself for the fix he’s in.

But Moore has decided to go down fighting. Liberty Counsel, an extreme Religious Right group led by anti-LGBT attorney Mat Staver, has filed suit on Moore’s behalf arguing that the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission, the oversight body that started the investigation of Moore, lacks the authority to remove him from the bench while this matter proceeds.

The lawsuit has the feel of a desperate stunt designed more to gum up the works than make a legal point. Under Alabama law, Moore, who is 69, will have to retire when he turns 70 in February. He’ll soon be off the court no matter what.

Moore would probably rather not leave the court in disgrace, but he should have thought of that before he tried to overrule a U.S. Supreme Court decision. Of course, defying higher courts is something of a habit for Moore. He did it in the early 2000s after a federal court ordered him to remove a large Ten Commandments monument from the Judicial Building in Montgomery. An appeals court upheld that decision. Moore tried to ignore it and was consequently removed from the court. In 2012, he ran for his old job and got it back.

Moore has embarrassed and disgraced the state of Alabama long enough. The Alabama Court of the Judiciary should investigate this matter thoroughly. Of course Moore must be permitted to mount a defense, but from where we’re sitting, it looks pretty obvious that he violated judicial ethics once again.

The extremist judge and his cronies at Liberty Counsel must not be permitted to toss a monkey wrench into this process. Moore’s lawsuit has no merit. It should be rejected so that Alabama officials can focus on the matter at hand. If he’s found to be guilty, Moore should be removed from the Alabama Sup­reme Court for good.

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