By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, January 28, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a judicial ethics complaint against popular Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) for his comments regarding the controversial recent ruling by Federal Judge Callie 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.
This time the SPLC filed their ethics complaint against Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore over his pledge to defy federal law and enforce Alabama’s Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage which was ratified by 81 percent of Alabama’s voters.
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, “We’ve been down this road with Moore before. Many around the country know him as the ‘Ten Commandments judge.’”
Cohen reminds us that, “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.”
Cohen lamented, “Unfortunately, Alabama voters elected him chief justice again three years ago.” “Now, he’s at it again – confusing his personal religious beliefs with his duty to uphold both State and Federal law, including the US Constitution.”
Cohen said, “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.”
Like 2003, the complaint was filed with the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama. 12 years ago the Commission recommend that Moore face ethics charges in the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. That court then removed Moore from his office after Chief Justice Moore refused to comply with an order from a Federal judge to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Supreme Court Building.
SPLC 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. “The chief justice is trotting out the same tired – and disproven – states’ rights arguments that were used to disenfranchise African Americans. Even if Moore isn’t a student of history, you would think he would be a student of his own history. The opinion that removed him from the bench in disgrace more than a decade ago clearly explained why he can’t ignore the federal courts.”
Cohen said, “It’s an open secret that Moore wants to run for governor again in Alabama.” Cohen accused Judge Moore of wrapping himself in demagoguery to further his political career.
Cohen wrote, “Moore’s action is unethical, irresponsible, and lawless. It’s precisely what got him removed from office the first time. For the sake of all Alabamians who believe in the rule of law, we hope the result is the same this time. The people of Alabama elected Moore to be a judge, not a pastor.”
Specifically in the complaint, the SPLC said that in the January 27, 2015 letter Moore sent to Governor Robert Bentley (R) addressing the Granade ruling was written on Supreme Court of Alabama letterhead. Moore instructed Governor Bentley that the definition of marriage is biblical and therefore beyond the reach of the federal courts. The SPLC also strongly objected to Moore’s calling the ruling, “Judicial tyranny.”
In the complaint the SPLC wrote that, “Chief Justice Moore released the letter to the press and gave interviews to the media regarding the letter. In an interview with WSFA television, Moore states that “forty-four federal courts and 22 states have bowed down to the tyranny of the federal government” but that “Alabama isn’t doing that” and that “we will have a confrontation” if the district court’s order is enforced.”
The SPLC complaint argues that Chief Justice Moore’s actions violate Alabama’s Canons of Judicial Ethics in numerous and significant regards. “First, the letter and press interviews constitute “public comment.” According to press accounts, Chief Justice Moore decided to write the letter after receiving press inquiries regarding his reaction to the recent ruling holding the marriage 3 restrictions unconstitutional. 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 case is the widely reported case of Searcy v. Strange, No. 1:14-cv-00208-CG-N (S.D. Ala.), in which U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade on January 23, 2015, entered a Memorandum Decision and Order declaring that Alabama’s marriage restrictions violate the United States Constitution.”
The complaint continues, “Third, Chief Justice Moore’s letter and press interviews also improperly address “impending cases.” 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. Family relations matters, for example, including those relating to divorce and adoption, typically are heard in state court. Indeed, the plaintiffs in the Searcy case 4 previously had litigated the question whether their out-of-state marriage provided a basis for a second-parent adoption in Alabama State court.”
They also complained that Moore in his letter instructed Alabama’s Probate Judges that issuing licenses to same sex couples would be contrary to law: “I would advise them that the issuance of such licenses would be in defiance of the laws and Constitution of Alabama,” Moore wrote.
The SPLC wrote, “It is difficult to imagine a more patent and undeniable violation of the prohibition against public comment on “impending” cases than for the sitting Chief Justice to advise an entire class of judges on how they must rule on what likely will be hundreds of license applications to be filed in just two short weeks. Chief Justice Moore has violated Canon 3(A)(6) in this regard as well.”
The complaint also accused Judge Moore of a lack of faithfulness to the law and failure of professional competence: “Chief Justice Moore also has violated his responsibility “to be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence.” See Canons of Judicial Ethics 3(A)(1). He denies the supremacy of federal law and maintains that it is trumped by the Alabama constitution and biblical principles. See Exhibit A at 1-2. In doing so, Chief Justice Moore has demonstrated complete disregard of and disdain for one of the foundational principles of our constitutional system—the Supremacy Clause of the United States 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. This is simply “Constitutional Law 101” – a principle that every first-year law student at every law school in every state in the Union would grasp instantly. Chief Justice Moore’s express 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.”
The SPLC complaint also accused Moore of disrespect for the dignity of the judiciary and of undermining public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary: “Chief Justice Moore’s letter and comments in the press assault the authority and integrity of the federal judiciary and publicly urges Alabama’s Governor to join him in opposing its purported “tyranny.” His letter thereby violates two related Canons of Judicial Ethics.” “Canons 1 and 2 command Chief Justice Moore to act to preserve the integrity and public confidence in the integrity of “the judiciary.” Chief Justice Moore is duty bound to uphold the integrity “the judiciary” as the impartial branch of our government to which all Alabamians – Christian or Jew, man or woman, gay or straight – can turn for justice or for protection from government overreach or intrusion. His wild and unfounded invocation of purported federal judicial “tyranny” directly undermines, and indeed appears intended to undermine, public confidence in the federal judiciary.”
The SPLC claims that, “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.”
The SPLC requests that this Judicial Inquiry Commission investigate their allegations and recommend that Chief Justice Moore face charges in the Court of the Judiciary.
New unemployment claims continued dropping last week
There were 8,679 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, slightly fewer than the 8,848 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
Of the claims filed between Sept. 13 and Sept. 19, 4,465, or 51 percent, were related to COVID-19. That’s the same percentage as the previous week.
Unemployment benefits could change for some Alabamians
ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3.
Some Alabamians receiving unemployment benefits could see changes in those benefits after the Alabama Department of Labor conducts a required quarterly review and redetermines eligibility, the department said Friday.
The Alabama Department of Labor said in a press release Friday that no action is required by those receiving regular unemployment, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.
ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3.
“Some may remain eligible for PUA or PEUC, OR they may be required to change to regular unemployment compensation. Weekly benefit amounts may also change. This depends on eligibility requirements,” ADOL said in the release. “Those claimants whose benefit year ends prior to October 3, 2020, will have their claims reevaluated.”
After the review, if the claimant is determined not to be eligible for regular unemployment compensation, those who qualify may still be able to be paid under PUA or PEUC, and that determination will be made automatically and payment will be issued, the department said in the release.
Claimants must also continue to certify their weeks.
Many claimants are not receiving benefits because they fail to file their weekly certifications, i.e. requests for payment. ADOL cannot pay benefits for weeks that have not been properly certified. Certifications can be done online at labor.alabama.gov or by calling the appropriate number:
- Montgomery – (334) 954-4094
- Birmingham – (205) 458-2282
- Not in Local Area – (800) 752-7389
PUA recipients must file their weekly certifications either by telephone or on the PUA app, at pua.labor.alabama.gov.
Alabama Republicans praise President Trump’s SCOTUS nomination
“The confirmation process is already proving to be another brutal fight, but I am certain that this is the job for a strong, conservative woman,” Ivey said.
President Donald Trump on Saturday nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court, and, if confirmed, Barrett would fill the vacancy created by the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Trump’s nomination of Barrett was met with near universal praise among Alabama Republicans including Gov. Kay Ivey and a number of other elected officials.
“I commend President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Judge Barrett will be focused on interpreting the law, being an arbiter and not a lawmaker, as the Supreme Court demands of its justices,” Ivey said. “Based on her proven career and background, I am confident that Judge Barrett will be articulate and a fair supporter of issues important to Alabamians such as protecting the unborn and our Second Amendment rights, while applying the law impartially.”
Barrett has served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since 2017. Before becoming a judge, she was a law professor at Notre Dame Law School and previously clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Ivey said Barrett will embody the precedent established by Ginsburg and further prove that a woman can be a wife, a mother, a person of faith and hold strong personal convictions while still effectively performing the duties required of a justice.
“The confirmation process is already proving to be another brutal fight, but I am certain that this is the job for a strong, conservative woman,” Ivey said. “The people of Alabama overwhelmingly supported President Trump in 2016, and I commend him for performing his constitutional duty of nominating to the Supreme Court and getting the job done that we elected him to do. The late Justice Ginsburg herself noted that even in an election year, ‘a president doesn’t stop being president.’”
Before her death, Ginsburg reportedly made a request that her replacement not be nominated or confirmed until a “new president is installed.” Last week, Ginsburg became the first woman and the first Jewish person to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.
“I eagerly anticipate Judge Barrett’s confirmation, and I look forward to continuing to forge a strong relationship between President Trump and the state of Alabama during his next term,” said Ivey.
Democratic Senators, though they do not appear to have the votes to stop Barrett’s nomination, are vociferously opposed to confirming a new justice before the Nov. 3 election determines whether Trump will serve as second term.
Democrats point to what they say is the hypocritical position of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who refused to hold hearings or a vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, in 2016.
All but two Republican senators appear prepared to vote for Barrett’s confirmation, all but assuring her a seat on the court and solidifying a 6-3 conservative majority.
“I am extremely pleased with President Trump’s selection in nominating Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama. “From her clerkship for the late Justice Scalia to her tenure on the 7th Circuit, Judge Barrett has had a distinguished career and has proven her commitment to the rule of law. Our next Supreme Court Justice must be a steadfast supporter of upholding our nation’s Constitution. I have no doubt in Judge Barrett’s qualifications, and I look forward to supporting her nomination.”
Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat, has said he will not vote for any nominee until the results of the Nov. 3 election are decided.
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan:
“President Trump has nominated a superior candidate for our nation’s highest court. Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a solid constitutional jurist who has distinguished herself both on the bench during her time on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, in academia as a law professor at the University Notre Dame and as a clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia,” Lathan said. “Judge Barrett’s focus on following the Constitution is apparent in her opinions, in cases ranging from the 2nd Amendment to immigration. Even three Democrat Senators – Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Joe Donnelly crossed party lines in 2017 to support her first nomination to the bench.”
“A mother of seven, including two adopted children from Haiti, Supreme Court nominee Barrett has been called a ‘powerhouse’ constitutionalist,” Lathan continued. “Her consistent rulings on applying laws to the words of our U.S. Constitution is the exact example of what the justices are tasked with in implementing their rulings. Based on qualifications and experience alone, Judge Barrett’s nomination merits a vote by the full United States Senate.”
Congressman Gary Palmer:
“President Trump has made an excellent choice in nominating Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court, and I extend my heartfelt congratulations to her and her family,” Congressman Gary Palmer, R-Alabama, said. “Judge Barrett has a stellar record of faithfully interpreting the law, training young lawyers, producing brilliant scholarship, and upholding the Constitution. Her devotion to her family, and her dedication to her students during her years as a law professor, are also commendable. There is no question that she is highly qualified and will make a fantastic Justice. I urge the Senate to confirm her quickly.”
Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville:
“I am so excited about President Trump’s nomination today of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville. “She understands that’s it’s her job to interpret the Constitution as it’s written and not to manufacture new law from the bench. Her nomination opens the door to protecting unborn life, preserving our Second Amendment gun rights, and securing the religious freedoms guaranteed to us by the Constitution.”
“My opponent, Democrat Doug Jones has a very different opinion,” Tuberville continued. “He’s already announced his opposition to any candidate offered by President Donald J. Trump, and he said even meeting and listening to Judge Barrett would be useless. When it comes to giving fair consideration to President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Doug Jones is a lost ball in high cotton. But that comes as no surprise. He voted against Brett Kavanaugh and said he would have opposed Neil Gorsuch if he’d been in the Senate at the time. Democrat Doug even voted twice to remove Donald J. Trump from office. Since becoming our placeholder senator, Doug Jones has opposed everything most Alabamians support and supported everything most Alabamians oppose. Instead of representing our conservative Alabama values, he’s represented the Hollywood and New York values of his high-dollar, out-of-state campaign donors.”
“There’s no telling what kind of dishonest tactics Doug Jones, Chuck Schumer, Kamala Harris and the other Senate liberals will use against a woman who is imminently qualified to sit on our nation’s highest court,” Tuberville warned. “So I’ll close by asking you to join me in praying for Judge Barrett and her family as she faces what promises to be a tough and partisan confirmation hearing. With your prayers and support, America will soon have a strongly conservative Supreme Court, and Alabama will have a new senator who actually represents the citizens of this great state. May God bless Judge Barrett. May God bless President Donald Trump. And may God continue to bless the greatest nation mankind has ever known.”
Congressional candidate Barry Moore:
“I applaud the President for making this nomination now, as the Constitution mandates,” said Congressional candidate Barry Moore. “I’m confident that the Senate will also take up Judge Barrett’s nomination in a timely fashion and not delay the process until after the election. The Constitution doesn’t state anything about waiting until after an election to fill Supreme Court vacancies, despite what the Democrats want us to think.”
“I’m pleased that President Trump has chosen a strong pro-life woman for the Supreme Court,” Moore continued. “I’m also impressed by Judge Barrett’s credentials and experience. I am certain she’ll make an exceptional addition to the Supreme Court, and will serve us well for many years to come.”
“We, as a nation, must act now by praying for President Trump, Judge Barrett and their families,” Moore concluded. “They need to have a shield of favor and protection prayed over them. I truly believe we are in a spiritual battle for our nation and the Democrats will stop at nothing to destroy the character of Judge Barrett, as they’ve done for the last 4 years with President Trump.”
Alabama House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter
“I join the members of the Alabama House Republican Caucus in praising President Trump’s decision to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Alabama House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville.
“Judge Barrett clerked for one of the court’s greatest conservative jurists, Judge Antonin Scalia, and she understands that her job is to interpret the Constitution as the founding fathers wrote it, not to invent new law out of thin air,” Ledbetter said. “The suit against Alabama’s strongest-in-the-nation pro-life law is currently working its way through the federal courts, and it could be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future. Having a conservative majority on the nation’s highest court will be essential to the Alabama Legislature’s efforts to protect unborn life from harm. We encourage the Senate to hold confirmation hearings as soon as possible and to hold an up-or-down vote on Judge Barrett’s nomination immediately after they conclude.”
23rd Alabama inmate dies with COVID-19
There have been 409 total positive COVID-19 cases among inmates and 392 total among employees as of Sept. 26.
The Alabama Department of Corrections on Friday reported the 23rd COVID-19 death among inmates in the state’s prisons.
Christopher Nalls, a 59-year-old inmate serving a 15-year sentence, died Sept. 10 at a local hospital in Hamilton, Alabama.
Nalls was moved to the local hospital on Aug. 31 to receive treatment for pre-existing health conditions unrelated to COVID-19.
His admission test upon entering the hospital was negative, and after treatment, Nalls was discharged Sept. 4.
Upon return, Nalls’s condition worsened, and he was readmitted Sept. 10. He died later that same day. A postmortem COVID-19 test showed Nalls died with COVID-19.
ADOC did not report any other positive COVID-19 cases among inmates in correctional facilities. But in the same report Friday, ADOC reported six new positive cases among staff, bringing the staff total to 28 active cases.
ADOC’s Office of Health Services initiated investigations into possible prolonged exposures between positive staff members and inmates or employees.
There have been 409 total positive COVID-19 cases among inmates and 392 total among employees as of Sept. 26.