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HRC Joins Effort To Remove Chief Justice Roy Moore

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The people of Alabama have twice elected Judge Roy Moore (R) as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Liberal attorneys have previously objected to Chief Justice Moore’s conduct and formally asked that he be removed from office.  In 2003, they were successful.  In 2015, they are trying again.

On Thursday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) announced that they were joining the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) complaint which seeks to remove Chief Justice Moore.

The group said in a statement that the, “Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice is an unethical demagogue, who flouts his oath of office, disregards federal law and ignores the US Constitution.”

The HRC announced that it supports an ethics complaint with the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama seeking the removal of Chief Justice Roy Moore from the State Supreme Court for violating the obligations of his office.

HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said, “Chief Justice Roy Moore is lawlessly disregarding the binding ruling of a Federal judge, and he’s encouraging other statewide officeholders to do the same.  Moore’s personal opinions are not at issue here. As a lawyer and as a judge, he has an obligation to follow the law. If he refuses to do so, he should be removed from office.”

The groups accused Chief Justice Moore of continuing, “To double down on a reckless and dangerous pattern of flagrant disregard for the law by urging parties to ignore recent Federal court rulings striking down the State’s ban on marriage equality for committed and loving same-sex couples. In an initial letter following the Federal judge’s ruling, Moore urged the governor to ignore the ruling as non-binding “judicial tyranny.” Going above and beyond this defiant behavior, he then continued his own judicial activism by writing a letter and memorandum to the State’s probate judges claiming they are not required to follow the order.”

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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 both 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, “We’ve been down this road with Moore before. Many around the country know him as the “Ten Commandments judge.”  In 2003, the SPLC filed an ethics complaint over Moore’s open defiance of a Federal court order requiring him to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Supreme Court building. That complaint led to his removal from office.

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Cohen said, “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 recommended 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 accused More of, “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.”

The SPLC and now HRC complaint stated 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.” “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 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 continues 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 US District Judge Callie 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 wrote; “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 and HRC request that the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission investigate their allegations and recommend that Chief Justice Moore face charges in the Court of the Judiciary.

Chief Justice Moore replied to the complaint 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.”

Alabama’s Probate Judges are supposed to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday, February 9.  Some of the judges have already announced that they will not give any couples marriage licenses rather than sign a marriage license for a same-sex couple.

The Human Rights Campaign says that they are America’s largest organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Study: COVID-19 infection rates more than double without lockdowns

Infection and fatality rates would have been higher without stay-at-home orders, a new UAB study found.

Micah Danney

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New research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham says that if there had been no stay-at-home orders issued in the U.S. in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the country would have experienced a 220 percent higher rate of infection and a 22 percent higher fatality rate than if such orders were implemented nationwide.

Seven states never imposed stay-at-home orders, or SAHOs. The study analyzed daily positive case rates by state against the presence or absence of statewide SAHOs between March 1 and May 4, the period when such orders began to be implemented. Twelve states lifted their SAHOs before May 4.

The researchers defined SAHOs as being in effect when a state’s governor issued an order for residents of the entire state to leave home only for essential activities and when schools and nonessential businesses were closed.

“During March and April, most states in the United States imposed shutdowns and enacted SAHOs in an effort to control the disease,” said Bisakha Sen, the study’s senior author. “However, mixed messages from political authorities on the usefulness of SAHOs, popular pressure and concerns about the economic fallout led some states to lift the restrictions before public health experts considered it advisable.”

The research also sought to determine if the proportion of a state’s Black residents was associated with its number of positive cases. It found that there was.

“This finding adds to evidence from existing studies using county-level data on racial disparities in COVID-19 infection rates and underlines the urgency of better understanding and addressing these disparities,” said study co-author Vidya Sagar Hanumanthu. 

The research can help advance a greater understanding of racial disparities in the health care system as a whole, and help leaders make future decisions about shutdowns as the virus continues to spread, Sen said.

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“While the high economic cost makes SAHOs unsustainable as a long-term policy, our findings could help inform federal, state and local policymakers in weighing the costs and benefits of different short-term options to combat the pandemic,” she said.

The study was published Friday in JAMA Network Open.

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Jones to attend Auburn student forum, Tuberville hasn’t yet responded to invitation

Jones has agreed to attend the forum, but it was unclear whether Tuberville planned to attend.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

The College Democrats at Auburn University and the College Republicans at Auburn University have asked U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, and his Republican opponent, Tommy Tuberville, to attend a student forum on Wednesday.

“We are excited to invite the candidates running for our U.S. Senate seat and provide this opportunity for any Auburn student to hear directly from them, and we hope it will inform our student bodies’ decisions with the November 3rd election only days away,” said Carsten Grove, president of the College Democrats at Auburn University, in a statement.

Jones has agreed to attend the forum, Auburn University College Democrats confirmed for APR on Sunday, but it was unclear whether Tuberville planned to attend. The student organization  was still awaiting a response from Tuberville’s campaign.

Jones has for months requested Tuberville join him in a debate, but Tuberville has declined.

“AUCR takes great pleasure in coming together with AUCD to co-host the Alabama Senate candidates in this forum. We are looking forward to a very informative and constructive event,” said Lydia Maxwell, president of the College Republicans at Auburn University.

Dr. Ryan Williamson, assistant professor of political science, is to emcee the forum, which will be open to all Auburn University students in the Mell Classroom Building at 6 p.m., according to a press release from the College Democrats at Auburn University.

Students will be permitted 30 seconds to ask a question of either candidate, and each candidate will have two minutes to answer, according to the release.

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Capacity at the forum will be limited and precautions taken due to COVID-19. Any student with an Auburn ID is welcome and attendance will be first come, first served.

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122,000 Alabamians could lose health coverage if ACA is overturned, study finds

President Donald Trump’s administration and 18 states, including Alabama, are asking the country’s highest court to strike down the law. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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At least 122,000 Alabamians and 21.1 million in the U.S. overall would lose health coverage if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act, according to a recent study. 

The Washington D.C.-based think tank Urban Institute’s analysis found that Alabama’s uninsured rate would increase by 25 percent if the court strikes down the Affordable Care Act. Oral arguments in a case against the landmark health care law are to begin on Nov. 10.  

President Donald Trump’s administration and 18 states, including Alabama, are asking the country’s highest court to strike down the entire ACA. 

Trump, speaking to CBS News’s Lesley Stahl in a recent interview, said he would like the Supreme Court to end the ACA. There’s concern among many that Trump’s pick to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the court, conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett, could be a deciding factor in the repeal of the ACA when the Supreme Court hears the case just after the Nov. 3 election.

“I hope that they end it. It’ll be so good if they end it,” Trump told Stahl.

“Repealing the ACA would throw our health care system into chaos in the middle of a pandemic and a deep recession,” Alabama Arise executive director Robyn Hyden said in a statement. “Tens of thousands of Alabamians would lose health coverage when they need it most. And hundreds of thousands would pay more for coverage or lose protections for their preexisting conditions.”

Health care coverage losses could be even larger next year, as the COVID-19 pandemic and recession likely still will be ongoing, according to the study. 

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“The ACA has been a health lifeline for many Alabamians during the pandemic,” Hyden said. “It provides coverage options for people who have lost their jobs or seen sharp reductions in their income. And it ensures people aren’t denied insurance just because they got sick.”

Ending the ACA would also reverse gains made in reducing racial disparities in health care coverage, researchers in the study found, noting that overturning the ACA would strip health coverage from nearly one in 10 Black and Latino Americans under age 65, and more than one in 10 Native Americans nationwide would lose health insurance. 

People with pre-existing conditions would be charged higher insurance rates, or have their coverage dropped altogether, if the ACA is struck down, according to the study, which also found that the law’s repeal would harm people who have health insurance through their jobs. 

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Those who have health insurance from an employer could see their plans reintroduce annual and lifetime coverage limits, and requirements for plans to cover essential benefits and provide free preventive services would disappear, according to the study, as would the requirement for insurers to allow young adults to be covered through their parents’ plans.

While millions would lose health care if the law is repealed, the country’s top earners would receive tax cuts, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which found that the highest-income 0.1 percent of households, which earn more than $3 million annually, would receive tax cuts averaging about $198,000 per year. 

“A portion of these tax cuts — about $10 billion per year — would come at the direct expense of the Medicare Trust Fund, since the additional Medicare tax the ACA instituted for couples with earnings over $250,000 flows to the fund,” the Center of Budget and Policy Priority study reads. 

Pharmaceutical companies would pay $2.8 billion less in taxes each year, according to the study, while millions of seniors would pay billions more for prescription drugs due to the gap in Medicare’s prescription drug benefit if the ACA is repealed. 

“The ACA has left Alabama better equipped to fight COVID-19 and rebuild our economy after the recession,” Hyden said. “And those benefits would be even greater if Alabama would adopt Medicaid expansion.

“Striking down the ACA would harm the Alabamians who have suffered the most during the pandemic and the recession. It would deprive our state of the opportunity to save lives and strengthen our health care system by expanding Medicaid,” Hyden continued. “And it would shower huge tax cuts on rich people while making life harder for everyone else. Alabama officials should stop seeking to undermine the ACA and start investing in a healthier future for our entire state.”

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Two military pilots killed in plane crash in Foley

The plane crashed around 5 p.m. A house and two cars on the ground were hit in the crash.

Brandon Moseley

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Navy Lt. Rhiannon Ross, age 30, of Wixom, Michigan, died when her T-6B Texan II trainer aircraft crashed. Also killed was Coast Guard Ensign Morgan Garrett, a 24-year-old student aviator.

A Navy pilot and a Coast Guard student pilot were killed on Friday when their Navy T-6B Texan II training airplane crashed into a home in Foley. No one in the house was killed.

Commander Zach Harrell, a public affairs officer with Naval Air Forces, said that the plane crashed around 5 p.m. A house and two cars on the ground were hit in the crash.

“It is with a heavy heart that we mourn two of our pilots who lost their lives during an aircraft crash in Alabama today,” the chief of naval air training said in a Twitter post. “Our deepest sympathy goes to their family and friends at this difficult time. Rest in peace, Shipmates. We have the watch.”

Navy Lt. Rhiannon Ross, age 30, of Wixom, Michigan, died when her T-6B Texan II trainer aircraft crashed. She was a Navy instructor pilot, officials announced on Sunday. Also killed was Coast Guard Ensign Morgan Garrett, a 24-year-old student aviator.

Ross earned her commission in April 2012. Before joining the Florida-based Training Squadron Two in February 2018, she served three years with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26 out of Norfolk, Virginia.

Garrett was from Weddington, North Carolina, and was a 2019 Coast Guard Academy graduate.

“Their spirit, friendship, and devotion to their country will not be forgotten,” Navy officials said in a Sunday news release.

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Ross was a member of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor’s Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps, according to her Navy career bio. Her personal awards include a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.

Friday’s accident marked the Navy’s first aviation-related fatality in more than a year.

“The incident is currently under investigation,” Harrell said. “The Navy is cooperating fully with local authorities.”

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U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, said on Twitter, “Very sad to hear about the Navy trainer aircraft that crashed in Foley. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two service members who lost their live.”

Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, said, “As we await additional information, I hope you will join me in praying for the victims and their families. According to the Baldwin County Sheriff’s office, the plane was a US Navy aircraft.”

A home caught fire after the plane crashed but the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office also said no one on the ground was injured.

The T-6B Texan II is a tandem-seat, turboprop aircraft primarily used to train Navy and Marine Corps pilots, according to the Navy.

There are 245 T-6Bs based at the Navy’s two aviation training bases, Naval Air Station Whiting Field, outside of Pensacola and Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas. The airfield is about 45 miles from the crash site.

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