Alabama’s Chief Justice Suspended, Faces Ouster

     (CN) – Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was suspended on Friday and faces possible ouster over his attempts to block gay marriage following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
     Moore has been down this road before. In 2003, the Christian conservative was removed from the same position by the Court of Judiciary over his refusal to remove a Ten Commandments monument.
     In that case, Moore cited his religious faith in disregarding a federal judge’s order to remove a massive, stone Ten Commandments monument he had erected in Alabama’s main judicial building in Montgomery. Moore claimed he had to protect the monument because of his faith and oath of office.
     “Without an acknowledgement of God I cannot do my duty,” Moore testified at the trial that resulted in his conviction and removal from office on charges of violating judicial canons of ethics.He later easily won re-election.
     Late Friday night, the same court filed an ethics complaint against Moore over his actions last year when a federal judge in Mobile made same-sex marriages legal and the United States Supreme Court found a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
     Moore sent an “advisory letter” to all probate judges telling them, “Until further decision by the Alabama Supreme Court, the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court that Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage licenses contrary to the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment or the Alabama Marriage Protection Act remain in full force and effect.”
     In its ethics complaint, the Court of Judiciary states that Moore “clearly enunciated” on numerous occasions that he “strongly disagrees” with the United States Supreme Court’s decision. Moore, the complaint says, “failed to adhere to the high standards required by the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics” by “Showing disrespect for and failing to acknowledge the authority of a United States District Court’s injunction.”
     The complaint continues to accuse Moore of abusing his authority by issuing the administrative order, failing to disqualify himself, issuing an order on a matter pending in his court and commenting on a case pending before his court.
     Despite his personal misgivings, the complaint says Moore “took an oath of office to support the United States Constitution, and as a state judicial officer, is bound by the United States Supreme Court’s interpretation and application of that Constitution.”
     He has “flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority as chief administrative officer of Alabama’s judicial branch”. He has also knowingly subjected the probate judges to potential prosecution or removal from office, the complaint continues.
     Moore is facing a total of five charges for violating the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics, including, but not limited to, failing to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary, failing to respect and comply with the law, failing to conduct himself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence and failing to perform the duties of his office impartially.
     The ethics charges stem from complaints filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center to the Judicial Inquiry Commission over the issue. The president of the SPLC, Richard Cohen, issued a statement Friday evening that states in part, “Chief Justice Roy Moore has disgraced his office for far too long.”
     ” He’s such a religious zealot, such an egomaniac that he thinks he doesn’t have to follow federal court rulings he disagrees with. For the good of the state, he should be kicked out of office.” Cohen continues, “Moore swore to uphold the United States Constitution. But he has demonstrated in the past, and now once again, that he is willing to put aside the law when it conflicts with his personal religious beliefs. He cannot be trusted to be in impartial arbiter of the law.”
     In a statement issued after his suspension, Moore said “The Judicial Inquiry Commission has no authority over the Administrative Orders of the Chief Justice of Alabama or the legal injunction of the Alabama Supreme Court prohibiting probate judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
     “The JIC has chosen to listen to people like Ambrosia Starling, a professed transvestite, and other gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals, as well as organizations which support their agenda,” he continued. “We intend to fight this agenda vigorously and expect to prevail.”

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