Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has been suspended from the bench for ordering probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Moore’s actions defied federal orders. The Alabama Court of the Judiciary reviewed Roy Moore’s case and found him guilty of all six charges of violation of the canons of judicial ethics. This is the second time the Chief Justice is removed from his position.
Moore presented himself before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary Wednesday. On Friday, the COJ issued the order of the suspension of the Chief Justice for the remainder of his term. The suspension was put into effect immediately, and Moore will not get pay until 2019. He will not be able to run for office again because he is 69 years old.
Justice Lyn Stuart will be the Active Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court while Moore is suspended. The court will continue with eight justices, according to Yasamie R. August, the press secretary for the Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.
There is a temporary Chief Justice and not a replacement because Moore was suspended and not removed from office. The nine-member COJ had three main options to act regarding Moore’s violations: remove him from the bench, suspend him without pay for as many months as the court thought necessary, or issue a statement of censure expressing disapproval, according to AL.com.
To remove Roy Moore from the bench, the vote needed to be unanimous, and it was not. Suspending him required a minimum 6-3 vote. All nine members of the Alabama Court of Judiciary agreed then on Moore’s suspension.
Chief Justice Moore issued an administrative order on January 6, 2016, telling judges that the state supreme court’s order from March 2015 was still in place. That order told the probate judges not to issue gay marriage licenses. Part of the administrative order read:
“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 license contrary to the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment or the Alabama Marriage Protection Act remain in full force and effect.”
People defended their rights and accused Chief Justice Moore of violating federal law
Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, stated that that the COJ did an excellent service for the citizens of Alabama by suspending Roy Moore from the bench. Southern Poverty Law Center filed the original complaint against Moore that generated the Judicial Inquiry Commission charges against him.
Cohen said Moore disgraced the office and his actions undermined the integrity of the judiciary by putting his personal religious beliefs above his duty to uphold the United States Constitution. He added that Moore was elected to be a judge and not a preacher, something that, in his view, Moore seems not to understand.
The first time Judge Roy Moore was suspended was back in 2003 when he refused to remove the 10 Commandments from the court’s buildings. He defied a federal court order in doing so and was suspended. He alleged to be upholding his oath.
Moore was suspended for violating the Canons of Judicial Ethics, and his trial was not about whether same-sex marriage should be permitted. The COJ reaffirmed they recognized that a majority of voters in Alabama decided for a constitutional amendment in 2006 banning same-sex marriage.
Moore’s case is not about the reviewing the United States Supreme Court’s decision on declaring same-sex marriage legal nationwide in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges either.
Wednesday trial before the Court of the Judiciary defined whether Judge Roy Moore violated ethical canons with his January 6 order. Moore was found guilty of violating six of them, including failing to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary, impropriety in all his activities, lack of respect for the law and being impartial.
The COJ 50-page order, issued on Friday, stated that it did not find credible Judge Moore’s claim that his January 6 order sought to provide a “status update” to the state’s probate judges.
Roy Moore is filing an appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court
Moore’s attorney, Mat Staver, said in a press release that suspending Chief Justice Moore for the rest of his term is the same as removing him from office. Because the COJ lacked the unanimous votes to remove him, it chose to ignore the laws and suspended him until 2019.
Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said Judge Moore Roy is filing an appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court.
Moore issued a statement saying that the decision to suspend him for almost three years reflect “the corrupt nature” of the political and legal system. The judge accused the JIC of employing a former legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center at a cost of $75,000 after the Attorney General of the state declined to prosecute the case.
Chief Justice added the JIC did not have witnesses and no “clear and convincing” evidence that the Administrative order of January 6, 2016, violated the Canons of Judicial Ethics.
Moore said his suspension was “a politically motivated effort by radical homosexual and transgender groups” because he opposes to their “immoral” agenda. He argued the COJ decision violates legal standards of evidence and also the law that states that no judge can be removed from office except by unanimous vote.