For the second time in his career, Chief Justice Roy Moore has been removed from office for the remainder of his term as Alabama’s top judge. Moore’s indefinite suspension comes after he encouraged state probate court judges to ignore federal orders, including those from the U.S. Supreme Court allowing marriages for all couples regardless of sexual orientation.
Moore was also ousted from office in 2003 after his refusal to follow a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from Alabama’s judicial building in Montgomery.
In its order suspending Moore, the Court of the Judiciary, the body which considers discipline of judges in Alabama, compared Moore’s 2003 refusal to obey federal courts with his recent actions regarding same-sex marriage.
“Just as Chief Justice Moore’s decision that he wouldn’t ‘move the monument’ was, in fact, defiance of the federal court order binding him,” the Court wrote in its 50-page decision on Moore’s fate, “a disinterested reasonable observer, fully informed of all the relevant facts, would conclude that the undeniable consequence of the Jan. 6, 2016, order was to order and direct the probate judges to deny marriage licenses in direct defiance of the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell and the Strawser injunction.”
In the decision’s conclusion, the Court said the suspension, which lasts until Moore’s term formally ends in 2019, is effective immediately.
“For these violations,” the order ends, “Chief Justice Moore is hereby suspended from office without pay for the remainder of his term. This suspension is effective immediately.”
Moore released a statement denouncing the Court of the Judiciary after the suspension was handed down last week.
“This decision clearly reflects the corrupt nature of our political and legal system at the highest level,” Moore said. “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. This opinion violates not only the legal standards of evidence but also the rule of law ….”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the groups that filed the original ethics complaint against Moore, also issued a statement after the ruling, but with a very different view of the suspension:
“The Court of the Judiciary has done the citizens of Alabama a great service by suspending Roy Moore from the bench,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “He disgraced his office and undermined the integrity of the judiciary by putting his personal religious beliefs above his sworn duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Moore was elected to be a judge, not a preacher. It’s something that he never seemed to understand. The people of Alabama who cherish the rule of law are not going to miss the Ayatollah of Alabama.”
Moore was most recently elected chief justice of Alabama in 2012, when he edged out Democrat Robert Vance for the state’s top legal job. Gov. Robert Bentley has said that as Moore is permanently suspended and not formally removed from office, he will not be appointing a replacement to the Alabama Supreme Court. Instead, Justice Lyn Stuart will continue to serve as acting chief justice of an eight-member court.