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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

(Reuters) – The chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court was effectively ousted on Friday by a judicial panel that found he unethically resisted U.S. court rulings that legalized same-sex marriage.

Chief Justice Roy Moore, 69, violated judicial ethics with an order seen as directing probate judges to withhold marriage licenses from same-sex couples, defying federal court decisions, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary ruled.

It was the second suspension for the outspokenly conservative Moore. Earlier, he was sanctioned for refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments in a state building.

Moore on Friday blasted the decision that followed a trial earlier this week.

“This was a politically motivated effort by radical homosexual and transgender groups to remove me as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court because of outspoken opposition to their immoral agenda,” he said in a statement on social media.

His lawyer, Mat Staver, said he plans to appeal the unanimous decision to suspend Moore without pay for the rest of his term, effective immediately. Staver said it essentially removes Moore from the bench, as the chief justice will be too old to seek re-election at his term’s end in January 2019.

Civil rights proponents hailed the move. “The people of Alabama who cherish the rule of law are not going to miss the Ayatollah of Alabama,” Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement.

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary said in the ruling that Moore’s Jan. 6 order showed “disregard for binding federal law” after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark June 2015 decision giving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.

The judiciary court rejected the chief justice’s argument that he was providing a status update. Moore has insisted there was uncertainty after conflicting opinions on gay marriage from state and federal courts.

“I think this ruling is an abuse of power,” Moore’s lawyer, Staver, said by phone. “It’s a de facto removal.”

The ruling noted the state judiciary court had removed Moore from the bench in 2003 for defying a federal order to take down a Ten Commandments monument he installed in the state’s judicial building. Voters re-elected him as chief justice in 2012.

He was charged after the Southern Poverty Law Center filed ethics complaints.

“It undermined the integrity of the judiciary, the spectacle of a chief justice telling other judges not to follow a court order,” the SPLC’s Cohen said by phone.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Fla.; Editing by David Gregorio and Matthew Lewis)

IMAGE: A same-sex marriage supporter holds a sign referring to Alabama’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, during a protest outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama February 9, 2015.  REUTERS/Marvin Gentry

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14 responses to “Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore Ousted Over Gay Marriage Defiance”

  1. So many backwards judges on the bench in the US, so many more to oust.

    • Jon says:

      True. The judiciary has become so politicized that people no longer trust judges to simply determine the applicable law and apply it to objectively determined facts. Listening to people like Ted Cruz, Charles Grassley, and Mitch McConnell is infuriating. They claim that they don’t want activist judges who make law through their interpretations. They say they want “strict constructionists”. That is their code for ultraconservative judges who will interpret the law in a manner consistent with their right wing agenda.

      • FireBaron says:

        Jon, you have to look at the different processes for appointment. The Federal judiciary receive lifetime appointments following Senate Confirmation. This is actually the greatest power a President has. By selecting judges that follow his (or her?) political bent, and depending on the age at appointment, you could have someone rendering decisions for 30 or more years.
        However, the individual States have myriad ways of seating them. In some, each judge faces an election for a set term (as in Alabama). Even the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court in Alabama is an elected position. In other states, they follow the federal format – nominated by the governor and appointed for life. In others, the appointment is for a set term and their renewal is by either open election or Legislative confirmation. In others, the initial appointment is by election, followed by renewal based on legislative approval.
        Why such a confusing state of affairs? It’s one of the few issues that interface with the federal judiciary that still allows for State sovereignty. There would have to be amendments to each State’s constitutions, or complete overhauls of those governing documents to force a change.

        • Jon says:

          I agree. I have read that there may be as many as 4 openings for Supreme Court justices during the term of the next president. As you said, these are lifetime appointments that will greatly affect the kind of country we have for the next 20 to 40 years depending on the age of the appointees. While Supreme Court rulings have the greatest impact, appointees to federal district and appeals courts will l have an impact on those areas under their jurisdictions.
          Here associate district judges are chosen by a panel consisting of both lawyers and laymen. Supreme court, appeals court, and district court judges are appointed by the governor. All stand for retention on the ballot every 6 years. While it is extremely rare for a judge to not receive enough votes to be retained, several years ago 3 Supreme Court justices were removed by failing to get enough votes for retention. They had interpreted state law to require same sex marriage. There were only 1 or 2 states in which it was legal at the time. The Republican Party launched a vicious attack on the justices and got sufficient voter turnout to block their retention.

      • Dan S says:

        The bitter irony of Mitch McConnells decision to not have a vote for Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court could be a silver lining. At 63 he may have 15-20 years at best to serve. With President Clinton her choice will likely be much younger & around a lot longer. For the 1st time in a generation we can finally get a sensible court that will appropriately interpret the law & stop turning over voting rights laws among other controversial decisions

        • Jon says:

          I have heard some people say that if Hillary wins, Grassley and McConnell will be tripping over each other to start confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland and confirm him before Hillary takes office. Some feel that if they try that President Obama will withdraw his nomination. I have read that as many as 4 openings may need to be filled during the next president’s term. Depending on the age of the appointees, they could impact the country for the next 20 to 40 years. A very important reason to defeat Trump.

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      • The pool of people in America from which the judges are raised, sent to Law Schools, and eventually given positions in the judiciary, is so polluted with warped and biased perceptions of justice.

        As this process of the distortion of the ideal of justice continues, we’ll always have an abundance of defective judges who no longer can tell the difference between justice and making equitable judgement, and what is unfair, biased and harmful to society.

        • FireBaron says:

          We are talking about Alabama. They have an elected judiciary, not an appointed one. In an elected judiciary, all you need do is meet the filing requirements in that state. If this were some other state where justices are appointed, his legal career would have been evaluated (and probably found lacking) before he was nominated and confirmed.

  2. yabbed says:

    If anyone undermined the rule of law it was Roy Moore for failing to respect and abide by federal law.

    • FireBaron says:

      What is even more ridiculous is his justification – as the original Federal Court that ruled on the decision was in the Midwest, it had no effect on Alabama. Per him, all the Supreme Court did was uphold that specific Appellate court decision, not impose it on the rest of the country. I imagine if this were 1866 he would probably argue that the 13th Amendment had no effect on the former states of the Confederacy, especially as those states did not consider themselves part of the United States at the time the Amendment was adopted!

  3. HoratioCaine says:

    Mat Staver doesn’t seem to understand that the only one abusing power was Moore.

    • FireBaron says:

      Understand that Staver comes from one of those legal firms that believes Leviticus should be the governing document for our country, not the US Constitution.

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