Above The Law?: Ala. Chief Jurist Demands No Accountability

Roy Moore openly defied a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. He ordered lower court judges in the state to deny citizens a right the high court said they had. He did this knowingly. He was flagrant about it. He was motivated not by respect for the law but by his own extreme religious views.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is in legal hot water again and has no one to blame but himself – but, as usual, he doesn’t want to accept responsibility for his actions.

As we reported previously, Moore has been temporarily suspended from the Alabama Supreme Court in the wake of charges that were filed against him by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission. The commission, acting on complaints filed by state residents, sent the matter to the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, which will investigate. If Moore is found guilty, he could be removed from the court.

All of this came about because Moore decided to defy the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of marriage equality. In June of 2015, the high court handed down a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry under the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Moore responded a few months later by issuing a strange administrative order directing all probate judges in the state to refuse marriages licenses to same-sex couples.

To no one’s surprise, this brazen act of defiance of the highest court in the land got Moore in trouble. The charges are serious and deserve a full hearing, and Moore should have every opportunity to offer a defense. But rather than take part in this process, Moore is trying to gum up the works: He is suing in federal court, arguing that a provision in Alabama law requiring that state judges be suspended while they are facing ethics charges is unconstitutional.

Moore’s lawsuit, the Associated Press reported, contends that the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission “can wield its significant power over Alabama’s elected judges – including the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court – based upon trivialities, viewpoint-based objections, differences in legal interpretation, political motivations or, even worse, to protect itself from investigation of violations of its own rules.”

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel is representing Moore in court. Staver said, “We are asking the federal court to strike down the automatic removal provision in the Alabama State Constitution and we are asking that Chief Justice Moore be immediately reinstated.”

Talk about chutzpah! Moore openly defied a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. He ordered lower court judges in the state to deny citizens a right the high court said they had. He did this knowingly. He was flagrant about it. He was motivated not by respect for the law but by his own extreme religious views.

And now he’s arguing that no state entity should be able to hold him accountable for his unlawful actions.

As you may recall, this is the second time Moore has tangled with judicial oversight bodies in Alabama. The first incident didn’t end well for him. Moore ignored a federal court ruling and refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Judicial Building in Montgomery. (The legal challenge, by the way, was brought by Americans United, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

In 2003, Moore was removed from the court for his antics. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006 and 2010. While Alabama voters rejected him for the governor’s mansion, they did see fit for some reason to return him to the state high court in 2012. Once back on the bench, Moore was soon up to his old tricks of attempting to merge his version of fundamentalist Christianity with the law.

Moore seems utterly incapable of engaging in any form of self-reflection. He wouldn’t be in this mess if he hadn’t disobeyed a higher court’s ruling. But it’s never his fault, is it? The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission must be to blame. (I thought conservatives were supposed to be for personal responsibility?)

Here’s hoping the federal court quickly disposes of Moore’s lawsuit, clearing the way for him to be held accountable for the mess that he – and only he – has made.