By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
The Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) and several justices on the Alabama Supreme Court are attempting, it appears, to avoid further unwanted scrutiny of their conduct in the case against Chief Justice Roy Moore.
The Commission, commonly referred to as the JIC, is hoping to steer clear of another growing controversy by dismissing the complaint against Associate Justice Tom Parker, who, like Chief Justice Moore, spoke publicly against same-sex marriage.
Republican lawmakers are determined to bring legislation into the 2017 Regular Session so as to limit the JIC’s power or abolish it all together. Many legislators see their actions in the Moore case as a dangerous overreach by a secretive “Star Chamber,” in collusion with trial lawyers and activist organizations bent on destroying the elected Chief Justice of the State’s highest court.
Are Acting Chief Justice Lyn Stuart, Mike Bolin and Jim Main are looking to salvage their reputations before the public becomes fully aware of their participation in events that led to Moore’s suspension?
The Alabama Political Reporter has filed to intervene in Moore’s case, seeking a motion to have all the records in his suspension trial unsealed. Stuart, Bolin and Main have the power to unseal these documents but have so far refused to let the people see all the facts in Moore’s case.
Reportedly, Stuart wants to remain Chief Justice and Main is eyeing a run for the Governor’s office. Stuart and main have strong alliances with the Business Council of Alabama and former Gov. Bob Riley. What Bolin has to gain if anything is unknown.
The Riley machine is desperately looking for a friendly gubernatorial candidate for 2018 and Main might be just the ticket.
Chief Justice Moore’s enjoys a large following of committed individuals who can swing a governor’s election or that of a chief justice. Is this why Stuart, Bolin and Main are hiding the records in his case?
As for the JIC, it is a political tool which many believe, on occasion, uses its power as a weapon.
J. Mark White, who famously defended felon Mike Hubbard, was a member of the commission until he became president of the Alabama Bar Association. As Bar President, he could not serve on the Commission. Perhaps coincidentally his partner Augusta Dowd was appointed to the JIC after his departure.
The rule about the Bar President serving on the JIC changed under White, which by happenstance will allow Dowd to retain her position on JIC while serving as head of the bar shortly.
Every judge is well aware of the attorneys who sit on the JIC, and while not to say a lawyer would ever use their position on the commission to intimidate a jurist, it is always possible that one might.
In a 5-3 decision, Acting Chief Stuart accompanied by Bolin, Main, Greg Shaw and Tommy Bryan, moved to have Stuart and Gov. Robert Bentley select the judge to hear Moore’s appeal. In a press release on Tuesday, Stuart said, “the Special Supreme Court’s members would be randomly selected in the presence of the parties, interested individuals and the press on Thursday, October 27, 2016, at 3:00 p.m.”
The recusal of Supreme Court justices and appointment of their replacements is a step in the right direction, but was this a decision made to appear fair or be fair?
The records in Moore’s case must be unsealed, or all these actions will be seen as a Machiavellian scheme to divert attention away from the bigger question: what are they hiding?
There is a smell of political intrigue in the air and it can only be removed by opening the records.