By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, August 4, 2016, US District Judge Harold Albritton issued a ruling stating the federal court will abstain from deciding the constitutionality of the automatic removal provision in the Alabama Constitution.
The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore (R) sued the State’s Judiciary Inquiry Commission (JIC) in Federal court in May arguing that the automatic removal 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. The judge is removed from the bench until a final resolution.
Moore’s attorney’s argued that the provision turns due process on its head because the judge has to prove innocence to return to the bench. While the constitutional challenge to the automatic removal provision is pending in Federal court, the merits of the JIC charges are before the Court of the Judiciary and will be heard on Monday, August 8.
Liberty Counsel is representing Chief Justice Moore.
Liberty Counsel and Chairman, Mat Staver said, “Alabama’s automatic removal provision goes against the assumption in law that a person is innocent until proven otherwise. This provision should be struck down. We will discuss the matter with our client about appealing the ruling. We have preserved this issue in the State proceeding and will continue our challenge to this automatic removal provision. We are ready for Monday’s hearing to address the politically-motivated charges filed against Chief Justice Moore.”
Judge Albritton ruled that the state case against the Chief Justice should proceed without interference from the Federal court.
According the Liberty Counsel, the federal court relied on the so-called Younger abstention doctrine that is named after a US Supreme Court opinion. While federal courts have authority to decide cases within their jurisdiction, the Younger case has been applied to require some federal courts to abstain from ruling on an ongoing State case if that ruling would interfere with the State proceeding.
Liberty Counsel argued that striking down the automatic removal provision would not interfere with the ongoing state proceeding in the Court of the Judiciary.
On Monday, 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.
At issue here is, whether or not the JIC has unlimited power to bring charges removing elected jurists because they don’t like their opinions. 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 charges are based on a complaint by the Montgomery based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The Court of the Judiciary removed Moore in 2003 after he refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument even after a federal judge ordered him to do so. His removal in 2003 was also in response to a SPLC ethics complaint brought to the court by the JIC.
The SPLC complaint alleges that Moore ordered State probate judges to violate a binding Federal court order; that he has repeatedly commented on pending cases; has undermined the public’s confidence in the integrity of the judiciary by denigrating the Federal courts and threatening to defy them; and has improperly lent the prestige of his office to the Foundation for Moral Law, a private organization that his wife runs and that he founded.
The President of the Foundation for Moral Law, Mrs. Kayla Moore wrote, “Those spearheading the removal of the Chief Justice hate God, marriage, and the rule of law (bedrocks of our country) and intend to stamp out anyone who stands for all three. Sadly, their goal is being accomplished by the weakness of those who claim virtue.”
Some political insiders suggest that all of the publicity from the case may actually help the Chief Justice if he should decide to run for Governor in 2018. Recent polling shows him with 28 percent of the Republican Primary vote: first by far in a nine person field.
The people of Alabama re-elected Moore Chief Justice in 2012.
Liberty Counsel describes itself as an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.