By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, August 3, 2016 U.S. District Judge Harold Albritton informed the lawyers that he had what he needed to decide the Judicial Inquiry Commission’s (JIC) motion to dismiss Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s (R) federal complaint.
After Alabama’s JIC charged and suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore, the conservative Chief Justice sued the JIC in federal court in May arguing that the automatic provision is unconstitutional. Alabama is the only state that has a provision in which judges are automatically removed from the bench when the JIC files a complaint no matter how minor the complaint may be. The judge is removed from the bench until a final resolution.
Moore is being defended by Liberty Counsel. Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman, Matt Staver wrote in a statement, “Alabama’s automatic removal provision is an oddity that runs against the assumption in law that a person is innocent until proven otherwise. This provision wreaks havoc among the judiciary and places too much power in the hands of the JIC. Even when a judge prevails in court, the judge has already been punished by the process. This provision should be struck down.”
Moore’s attorneys argue that the automatic provision turns due process on its head because the judge has to prove innocence to return to the bench. The JIC’s attorneys defended their statutorial authority to discipline judges, including Alabama’s unique automatic suspension clause.
Judge Albritton cancelled Thursday’s hearing, noting that the parties had done a “tremendous job” on the briefs. Albritton announced that he will promptly rule on the pending motions.
While Moore’s constitutional challenge to the automatic removal provision is pending in federal court, the Court of the Judiciary will hear arguments on Monday, August 8 on Chief Justice’s Moore’s motion to dismiss the JIC charges.
The Court of the Judiciary could dismiss the case against Moore or the court could rule that there is enough grounds for an actual trial to proceed. That trial would likely be scheduled for September.
In January Chief Justice Roy Moore wrote orders providing guidance to Alabama Probate Judges that they should enforce the Alabama Defense of Marriage constitutional amendment even after federal Judge Callie Granade of Mobile had ruled that both Alabama’s Defense of Marriage law and the amendment were unconstitutional. The JIC has charged that the Chief Justice acted unethically and are seeking to remove the popularly elected Chief Justice from the bench for that and for comments Chief Justice Moore made about the eventual US Supreme Court ruling which overturned 240++ years of precedent on what constituted a marriage.
Moore’s legal team is arguing that the JIC has no authority to remove him while acting in his capacity as the administrative head of the Alabama Court system.
The JIC previously charged and the Court of the Judiciary removed Chief Justice Moore for his failure to obey a federal judge’s ruling to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Supreme Court building. The people of Alabama re-elected Moore Chief Justice in 2012.
Recent polling by the Alabama Forestry Association shows that Chief Justice Moore leads a crowded nine person field for the Republican nomination for governor in 2018. The conservative Chief Justice, who has run for Governor and failed to win the GOP nomination twice, has 28 percent of the likely vote. Attorney General Luther Strange was second.