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Lawyers for Chief Say Complaints Are Political, Others Disagree

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY— At a media-packed press conference on Wednesday, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and his attorneys, called upon the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (“JIC”) to dismiss unfounded and politically motivated complaints filed against him by the Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”), People for the American Way, the Human Rights Campaign, Ambrosia Starling, and others.

Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, said the complaints filed against Chief Justice Moore were not about ethical misconduct, but instead, were an attack on his statements and administrative orders about the legal status of Alabama’s Sanctity of Marriage laws.

However, Richard Cohen, SPLC President said, ”Justice Moore has apparently not read the ethics complaints that we have filed against him. Those complaints focus not on his judicial opinions, but on his extrajudicial actions and statements, urging defiance of the rulings of the US Supreme Court.  But, Justice Moore is right about one thing: We do have a political agenda – it is called upholding the rule of law.”

Staver said that under the Alabama Constitution, the Chief Justice has administrative authority over Alabama probate judges. When a federal district court ruled against the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage laws, the probate judges were confused about whether they should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In February 2015, Chief Justice Moore issued an Administrative Order stating that the opinion from the Federal court applied only to the parties in that case, and that the probate judges as non-parties to that case were bound to follow Alabama law. In March 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered the probate judges to cease issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In January 2016, the Chief Justice issued a second Administrative Order, reminding the probate judges that the March 2015 Order remained in effect, pending further action by the Alabama Supreme Court. In that Order, the Chief Justice did not tell the probate judges to disobey Federal court orders as he has, at times, been incorrectly reported. On March 4, 2016, the Alabama Supreme Court issued the Certificate of Judgment on the March 2015 Orders, and did not vacate, modify, or otherwise disturb those Orders, as Chief Justice Moore explained in his concurring opinion.

Around 30 of the complaints filed against Chief Justice Moore were collected at a rally held on the steps to the State Supreme Court, by Ambrosia Starling. Starling’s Facebook page says, “I am an Entertainer, an Advocate for Equality. a defender of my community and a damned good cook!”

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At the rally, a mock same-sex marriage was performed, and according to Staver, those in attendance were asked to file complaints against the Chief Justice.

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A video of the rally can be seen on YouTube.

“The complaints against Chief Justice Roy Moore are about marriage, as indicated by the rally held on the steps of the Supreme Court,” said Staver. “He did nothing wrong.” Staver says, the complaints before JIC are politically motivated, having no basis in the Canons of Judicial Ethics. “The Alabama Supreme Court is the only body that has statutory authority to overrule administrative orders of the Chief Justice,” said Staver.

Cohen again disagrees saying, “Justice Moore is a demagogue, ‘the Ayatollah of Alabama,’ so it¹s not surprising that he would invite a raging anti-LGBT bigot like Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver to defend him at a press conference. All he¹s doing, of course, is demonstrating once again why he¹s unfit to be the Chief Justice of Alabama.”

Alabama Legislative Watchdogs Director, Ann Eubank said, she agreed with Chief Justice Moore. “I am here to support Chief Justice, did comments, orders, and opinions have mirrored those of Chief Justice Roberts, as well as other conservatives on the US Supreme Court.” She also said, seeking to punish a sitting justice for stating opinions widely held by many Alabamians was “wrong.”

 

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