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Moore Responds To SPLC Ethics Complaint

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Late on Wednesday, January 28, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) responded to a complaint by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) that he violated judicial ethics by commenting unfavorably about a decision in federal court striking down Alabama’s defense of marriage act.  An unapologetic Chief Justice Moore claimed that he was doing his duty and that lower federal and appeals court decisions are not binding of state of Alabama judges who have equal authority

Chief Justice Moore said in a written statement, “As Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, I am the administrative head of the judiciary of this State and it is my duty to advise the lower courts when their jurisdiction is threatened by an unlawful mandate by a federal district court. Our law and Alabama Supreme Court precedent are clear that lower federal and appeals court decisions carry only persuasive authority but are not binding on state judges also sworn to the United States Constitution, and who have equal authority to rule on such matters.”

The popular elected Chief Justice concluded, “I will continue to do my duty.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a judicial ethics complaint against popular Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Moore for his comments regarding the controversial recent ruling by Federal Judge Callie “Ginny” Granade declaring that Alabama’s Marriage Protection Act and Sanctity of Marriage Amendment violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The President of the SPLC, Richard Cohen wrote, “This morning, we filed an ethics complaint against Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore over his public statements urging the governor and state judges to defy federal law and continue to enforce Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages.”

President Cohen wrote, “In 2003, we filed an ethics complaint over Moore’s open defiance of a federal court order requiring him to remove his giant Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse. That complaint led to his removal from office.”  “Now, he’s at it again – confusing his personal religious beliefs with his duty to uphold both state and federal law, including the U.S. Constitution.”  “Our complaint spells out three specific violations of Alabama’s Canons of Judicial Ethics: his improper comments about pending cases; his lack of faithfulness to the law; and his disrespect for the integrity of the judiciary.”

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President Cohen said, “Moore is once again wrapping himself in the Bible and thumbing his nose at the Federal courts and Federal law.  As a private citizen, Moore is entitled to his views. But as the Chief Justice of Alabama, he has a responsibility to recognize the supremacy of Federal law and to conform his conduct to the canons of judicial ethics.”

Cohen said to members of the press that Moore wants to be Governor and acknowledged that the SPLC complaint might actually help him in that regard.

The SPLC complaint argues that Chief Justice Moore’s actions violate Alabama’s Canons of Judicial Ethics.  They object to Chief Justice Moore doing media interviews and press statements commenting on a case in federal court and a letter which the Chief Justice wrote to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) in which he urged the Governor to join him in defying judicial tyranny.  Cohen said that Moore can’t comment on a case even one in federal court.  “He then gave interviews to the press regarding the letter and the substance of the ruling. Rather than simply replying that the Canons of Judicial Ethics prevented him from speaking publicly about pending cases.”

The complaint states that, “Chief Justice Moore penned and made public a letter to the Governor, expressing his reaction to the ruling and urging defiance.  Second, Chief Justice Moore’s public comment expressly addresses a “pending case.” The complaint also reference advice Moore gave to Alabama Probate Judges urging them not to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.  The complaint also accused Judge Moore of a lack of faithfulness to the law and failure of professional competence.

On Wednesday two dozen protesters led by former First Congressional District candidate and long-time Moore campaign aide and fundraiser Dean Young protested the decision in front of Judge Granade’s court in Mobile.

Young said in a statement, “These federal judges are ruling by fiat and these people are just blindly following what they say and adhering to what they say, but in Alabama it is going to stop here in the state of Alabama, here in Mobile,” said Young. “We are going to stand up against this federal judge. We want this heard not only in Alabama but across the United States because we as a people have had it with these federal judges.”

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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