By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
The race for Alabama Supreme Court has recently become what most view as the most interesting election of the season.
In what many see as a reverse David verse Goliath has the relatively unknown Judge Robert Vance Jr. of Birmingham, facing former Chief Justice Roy Moore, who is known nationwide as the “Ten Commandment Judge.”
While Vance refused to take issue with Moore’s defiance of a federal court order that resulted in his removal from the bench in 2003, Vance did offer his own thoughts on judicial thinking and conduct.
“I am a firm believer in judicial restraint,” said Vance. “Their have been occasions in my career where my heart has told me one thing and the law says another I have always gone with the law.”
Vance says that too often judges let their personal belief and even bias overshadow their obligations as a neutral arbiter of the law.
“I take that concept of judicial restraint very seriously,” Vance said. “I have been on the bench for ten years. I have a trackrecord that people can look at for themselves.”
However, in today’s polarized political world, words like “judicial restraint” and “judicial activism” have lost their meaning and are, for some, simply buzz words for, “you agree with my philosophy.”
According to Vance, “This concept of judicial activism can exists where judges, left and right, might be characterized as activists of a sort. There are some who will allow their personal philosophy to intrude upon the decision making process.”
Judge Moore’s detractors have criticized the him for putting his religious beliefs about the law of the land, this was the case back in 2003. In his 2005 autobiography “So Help Me God,” Moore answered his critics “…absolutely no regrets. I have done what I was sworn to do. It’s about whether or not you can acknowledge God as a source of our law and our liberty. That’s all I’ve done…I had threatened the philosophy of judicial supremacy. Those who sat behind benches wearing black robes and wielding gavels did not want to be reminded that there is a God, or for that matter, a Constitution that they were sworn to uphold. Judicial restraint gave way to judicial tyranny, and a new law reigned—-the rule of man.”
This has made Moore a hero to many and an villain to others.
Vance, says, he strives to “put aside any personal sentiments and just go with what the law tells me to do.” He also cautions, “If we are serious about being a nation of laws, we really have to be strict in how we apply and interpret the laws.” This in short he says, “It characterizes my judicial philosophy.”
Recently, it has been reported that Vance is winning in the fundraising category with Vance having $433,910 in his campaign treasury compared to Moore’s $192,894.
Moore’s campaign has been quick to point out that Moore has successfully fended off candidates with more funds in the past and has no worries about the upcoming elections.
While no one would count the formidable Moore down much less out, there is a growing cadre of former lawmakers and judges coming into Vance’s camp.
Recently, former U.S. Rep. Jack Edwards, a longtime Republican, said he’s backing Democrat Robert Vance Jr. in the race for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Edwards was reported by Al.com as saying, “I know that Bob Vance being elected will be for the greater good of the great state of Alabama, I am surely going to vote for him.”
This along with the endorsement by former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Gorman Houston and their cash advantage has given Vance and company something akin to momentum.