By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Friday, October 21, 2016 the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) dismissed the complaint filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) against Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker (R).
Parker is being represented by Liberty Counsel.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “We are pleased that the complaint against Justice Tom Parker has been dismissed. The speech restrictive Judicial Canon clearly violates the First Amendment. The Canon is so broad that it prevents judges from commenting on any case pending anywhere in the county, even if they are teaching students in law school. Shame on the SPLC for filing this politically-motivated complaint against Justice Parker. I call upon the Alabama Supreme Court and the legislature to change this unconstitutional speech restriction and the automatic removal provision.”
The SPLC claimed that comments made about gay marriage on the American Family Radio talk show by Justice Parker violated Canon 3(A)(6) of the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics.
The SPLC claims that Canon 3(A)(6) prohibits Alabama judges from making “any public comment about a pending or impending proceeding in any court,” even if such a proceeding is not pending before the judge making the comments, and even if the judge’s comments do not have a reasonable likelihood of affecting the outcome or impairing the fairness of that proceeding.
Justice Parker and the American Bar Association claims that this broad speech restriction violates the First Amendment.
The JIC never actually charged Justice Parker. If they had, he would have been suspended pending a hearing. Liberty Counsel filed a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of both Canon 3 and the automatic removal provision. That lawsuit is still pending.
Justice Tom Parker is on the November 8th General Election ballot. He has no general election opponent.
In September the Court of the Judiciary (COJ) suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) for the rest of his term. In that case the SPLC also brought a complaint to the JIC. The JIC charged Chief Justice Moore and a majority of the COJ voted to suspend Moore for the rest of his term. Moore is appealing that ruling. Many conservatives feared that the JIC would follow up their victory over Moore with more purges of social conservatives, with Parker being their next target.
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.