By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Chief Justice Roy Moore has been suspended for the rest of his term in office, which permanently removes him from the bench forever (Moore will be aged-out by a State statute that caps eligibility to run for a judgeship after 70).
The Alabama Supreme Court is refusing to unseal the records in his case, denying the public the right to know all the facts that led to his suspension.
Chief Justice Moore’s suspension came after he allegedly defied a federal court order regarding same-sex marriage. The underlying case which prompted the complaint against him is, at its core, about justice and equal protection under the law.
Equal justice, the rule of law and honesty in our courts, is the bedrock of our Nation’s greatness. Perhaps ironically, it now appears Chief Justice Moore may be denied the very rights he stands accused of challenging.
No one needs to agree with Moore on marriage equality, the Ten Commandments or any other opinion, but everyone should believe he deserves the right to due process, afforded him by law.
Under State law, Moore is entitled to a final hearing by the State Supreme Court on the sentence handed down by the Court of the Judiciary. But how can the public have faith in the Alabama Supreme Court if it continues to deny the public their right to examine the records in the case?
Twice, Chief Justice Moore has filed a motion asking the court to unseal the records, but to no avail. The Alabama Political Reporter (APR) filed to intervene, seeking an order from the court to unseal the records. Judge Moore has now signed on to our motion.
Chief Justice Moore says he has nothing to hide. State law says the people have a right to know. Not only does State law demand the records be made public, so does judicial precedent and centuries of Common Law practice.
Moore has petitioned the court to disqualify the three justices who sat on Case No. 1150818, as well as Justice Shaw who made statements in his concurring opinion in Case No. 1140460, Ex parte State ex rel. Alabama Policy Institute (Ala. March 4, 2016). Case No. 1150818 Ex parte Roy S. Moore ( re: Roy S. Moore v. Judicial Inquiry Commission of the State of Alabama), is being kept under seal.
Is this being done in an attempt to shield these justices?
The names of the four justices who recused and those who ruled against Moore are under seal.
Who are the justices, and why are they hiding their identities?
In support of APR’s motion, Chief Justice Moore wrote, “Justice Stuart and certain other Justices have repeatedly denied my requests to unseal the record in this case.”
We know from Moore’s filing that acting Chief Justice Lyn Stuart is complicit in preventing the public from seeing the actual documents of the case. But who are the “certain other Justices,” referenced in his statement? This filing makes it clear that Justice Stuart is one. Justice Michael Bolin joined Stuart in firing Moore’s staff as reported by APR’s Brandon Moseley.
His actions in the dismissal of Moore’s staff would indicate Bolin is also one of the “certain other Justices.” Moore calling for Shaw’s removal from his appeal could mean he also is in league with Stuart and Bolin.
There is ample speculation that the four Justices who recused from Moore’s case are Glenn Murdock, Kelli Wise, Tommy Bryan and Tom Parker. If true, this points to Jim Main as one of the “certain other Justices.”
If Stuart, Bolin, Shaw and Main are the ones to select the other judges to hear Moore’s appeal, there are grave concerns that Moore will receive a fair hearing.
Remember, Stuart and Bolin moved swiftly to remove Moore’s staff. Their termination is highly irregular given that Moore’s suspension in on appeal before the very same justices.
Stuart and Bolin’s actions surely disqualify them from sitting in judgment of Moore’s appeal let alone selecting other judges to hear his case. Stuart, Bolin, Shaw and Main are closely aligned with the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) and former Gov. Bob Riley’s machine, two entities that are very anti-Moore. BCA chief Bill Canary and Riley have garishly shown their desire to control all aspects of State government, as revealed in the felony trial of former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.
Moore contends the only way he can be guaranteed a fair hearing is for justices to be chosen at random in a public drawing pool of sitting circuit judges. Moore’s suggested process is surely a reasonable request, in light of the severity of his punishment. A random selection of judges would also go a long way to assuring the tens of thousands of voters who elected Moore Chief Justice that the proceedings against him are fair and just.
Unsealing the court records is the first step toward ensuring confidence that the Alabama Supreme Court is acting honestly.
These are extraordinary proceedings, and they must not only be right, they must look right to remove all suspicion of political intrigue.
Moore’s appeal remains before the court, as does our request to unseal all the records related to his case. If the “certain others,” continue to block requests to unseal the court records, then it is incumbent upon the four recused justices to reenter the case and unseal the records.
We stand at a time in our Nation’s history when the very foundations of our Republic are being challenged. Meanwhile, here in Alabama, it seems the Supreme Court of our State is willing to act behind a veil of secrecy in determining the fate of a constitutionally elected Chief Justice. Such brazen disregard for the law and the people’s right to know is a disgrace.
Even those who are loathed to support Moore should recognize the grave importance of opening the records and letting them speak.
Denying justice for one is to deny justice for all.