In a unanimous decision, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary has suspended state supreme court chief justice Roy Moore from office without pay for the remainder of his term.
Rather than remove Moore from the bench a second time, the COJ decided to let his judicial career expire without him. Due to his age, Moore will be ineligible to serve on the state’s highest court again after 2018. He is widely expected to run for governor of Alabama instead.
The Judicial Inquiry Commission charged Moore with six violations of the Canons of Judicial Ethics for circulating a letter that encouraged county probate judges to defy the Obergefell ruling which established marriage equality as the law of the land. He was found guilty on all counts.
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) September 30, 2016
In their 50-page order, the COJ rejected Moore’s argument that the letter was merely a ‘status update.’
“We likewise do not accept Chief Justice Moore’s repeated argument that the disclaimer in paragraph 10 of the January 6, 2016, order – in which Chief Justice Moore asserted he was ‘not at liberty to provide any guidance … of the effect of Obergefell on the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court’ – negated the reality that Chief Justice More was in fact ‘ordering and directing’ the probate judges to comply with the API orders regardless of Obergefell or the injunction in Strawser (federal case in Alabama).”
Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, who is best-known for defending Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, reacted with his usual petty, meaningless legalisms.
“To suspend Chief Justice Moore for the rest of his term is the same as removal,” he told AL.com. “The COJ lacked the unanimous votes to remove the Chief, so the majority instead chose to ignore the law and the rules.”
In fact, the COJ had exactly three options upon finding Moore guilty: they could remove him from the bench, suspend him without pay, or issue a statement of censure. The last option, which would have left Moore on the bench, was clearly not good enough for the court.
In their decision, the COJ cited Moore’s defense in 2003 — “I didn’t say I would defy the court order. I said I wouldn’t move the monument. And I didn’t move the monument, which you can take as you will” — as evidence that he has learned nothing from being deposed the first time for defiance of federal courts.
Given that history, suspension was probably the smartest option.
Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that the COJ had “done the citizens of Alabama a great service” by taking this action against Moore.
“Moore was elected to be a judge, not a preacher,” Cohen said. “It’s something that he never seemed to understand. The people of Alabama who cherish the rule of law are not going to miss the Ayatollah of Alabama.”Click here for reuse options!
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