Ala. Chief Justice Sues |to Compel Reinstatement

     MONTGOMERY, Ala. (CN) — Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is challenging a section of the state constitution that automatically disqualifies a sitting judge from office once an ethics charge has been filed against him.
     Moore was suspended, with pay, on May 6, after ordering probate judges across the state to disobey federal rulings that required them to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
     In its ethics violations charge against him, the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission said Moore “flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority as chief administrative officer of Alabama’s judicial branch.”
     
     In a federal lawsuit filed on Friday, Moore describes Section 159 of the Alabama Constitution, the section that mandated his ouster, as a “Sword of Damocles” hanging over the head of every judge who finds himself being investigated by the defendant state Judicial Inquiry Commission.
     “This mandatory provision disrupts the orderly functioning of the Alabama judiciary, deprives an individual judge of property and liberty interests in judicial office, and irreversibly stains and stigmatizes the name and reputation of any judge against whom the JIC files a complaint – regardless of substance or merit,” the May 27 complaint says.
     Moore further contends the provision “cripples the judge’s staff, wreaks havoc on cases pending on the judge’s docket, and undermines overall judicial administration throughout the state.”
     He is asking a federal judge to reinstate him and to enjoin the state from enforcing a provision that he says allows the Judicial Inquiry Commission to suspend a judge indefinitely, without proper notice or an opportunity to be heard on the allegations against him.
     This, he says, allows the commission to “wield its significant power over Alabama’s elected judges — including the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court — based upon trivialities, viewpoint-based objections, differences in legal interpretation, political motivations or, even worse, to protect itself from investigation of violations of its own rules.”
     Moore, who previously tangled with the commission over his refusal to remove a 10 Commandments monument from state courthouse grounds, also claims the commission violated his right to due process by leaking word of its confidential investigation to a reporter from The New York Times.
     Moore says he didn’t hear of the ethics charges himself until the reporter called his attorney seeking comment.
     It was only then, he said, that he learned he’d been “entirely disqualified from exercising his judicial office and has been excluded from the Supreme Court floor of the Judicial Building.”
     Moore maintains no one has “unfettered discretion” to remove him from office, and that Section 159 clearly violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
     In addition to the commission and its members, the lawsuit also names Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and the acting Chief Justice Lyn Stuart as defendants.
     Moore is represented by Phillip Jauregui of the Judicial Action Group in Birmingham and Mathew Staver and Horatio Mihet of the Liberty Counsel in Orlando, Florida.

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