The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed an ethics complaint with the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama against Chief Justice Roy Moore, who yesterday made headlines for vowing to refuse a federal judge’s order ending the state’s longstanding ban on same-sex marriages.
Moore’s comments, made in a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley, evoked scripture about the Biblical definition of marriage and went on inform probate judges across the state that “issuing (same-sex) marriage licenses” following United States Judge Ginny Granade’s 14-day stay would be “in defiance of state law and the Constitution of Alabama.”
In the SPLC’s complaint, the group claims Moore’s actions “violate the canons of judicial ethics in numerous ways, including improper public comment on pending and impending proceedings, lack of faithfulness to the law, failure of professional competence and disrespect for the dignity of the judiciary.”
“It is no secret that legalization and recognition of same-sex marriages in this state may meet resistance, both public and private, and that related disputes almost certainly will end up in this state’s courts,” the complaint reads. “Rather than simply replying (to press inquiries) that the Canons of Judicial Ethics prevented him from speaking publicly about pending cases, Chief Justice Moore penned and made public a letter to the governor, expressing his reaction to the ruling and urging defiance.”
Locally, Moore’s comments were echoed by aspiring politician Dean Young, who held a small press conference at the federal courthouse in Mobile Jan. 27. He quoted Moore’s letter suggesting the recent federal ruling was in conflict with state law and the U.S. Constitution.
“Chief Justice Moore has himself taken an oath to uphold the federal constitution, even if there are other sources of authority he agrees with or prefers,” the complaint reads, calling the issues “Constitutional Law 101.”
“Moore’s (rejection) of this foundational principle evidences either a lack of faithfulness to a principle of law that is beyond dispute or an utter lack of competence that renders him subject to discipline.”Moore was famously removed from the bench as chief justice in 2004 after the state supreme court upheld a decision from Alabama’s Court of the Judiciary to punish Moore for refusing to obey a federal judge’s order to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments. He was then reelected to the same position nine years later.
The SPLC — one of the groups that sued challenging the constitutionality of the monument in 2002 — mentioned in its recent complaint that Moore’s removal from office was because of a “belief that a federal order was in conflict with the Alabama Constitution.”
According to the complaint, the disregard for judicial integrity Moore showed when he lambasted Granade’s ruling was “almost unprecedented and violated the first two judicial canons.
“Chief Justice Moore’s letter goes beyond simply expressing his own personal disdain for the federal judiciary, however. He expressly and openly invites Gov. Bentley and other judges to join in his defiance and disregard for the integrity of the federal judiciary,” it reads. “Chief Justice Moore attempts to conscript a virtual army of state officials and judges, whom he hopes to array in unified defiance of the federal judiciary. This threatened confrontation is unethical, irresponsible and lawless. It is the precise opposite of what we should expect from the chief judicial officer.”
The complaint summarizes the SPLC’s three main points, and then requests that the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama investigate the claims and hold Moore accountable. It also suggests Moore should “face charges in the Court of the Judiciary.”
The full complaint can be viewed here.
istandwithjudgemoore.com, the website created to garner support for the opposition to Granade’s ruling, has yet to respond the SPLC’s complaint, but the following statement was made by Moore’s wife on the Foundation for Moral Law and Moore’s Facebook pages.
“Not surprised,” Kayla Moore said. “He did nothing wrong but quote the law under the Constitution, but they didn’t like it. They hate everything moral and REALLY hate him.”