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Parker Asks That Judicial Canon Limiting Speech Be Declared Unconstitutional

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday October 25, 2016, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker (R) has asked the Federal court to rule on the merits of his constitutional challenge to Judicial Canon 3(A)(6) and the automatic removal provision requiring that any judge charged by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry.

The Alabama Political Reporter spoke with Justice Parker while he was campaigning for Donald Trump in Hoover.

APR asked Justice Parker if he was happy that the Judicial Inquiry Commission’s (JIC) dismissed the complaint against him on Friday. Parker said that he was, but added, “It should have happened six months ago.”

Parker said that the Southern Poverty Law Center brought the complaint against him eleven months ago. Parker said that the canon limiting what judges can say about impending cases was written by the Bar Association. They have since rewritten that canon, saying that it limited the free speech rights of judges. They say it is too restrictive; but Alabama has never gone back and updated to the new canons of judicial conduct.

Parker said that when the JIC charged Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) they did not charge him with anything to do with his comments, because they know that provision violates the First Amendment.

Parker said, “This was all about suppressing free speech.”

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Justice Parker told APR that the federal judge who heard his suit said that it restricted speech; but declined to rule on it because there was an ongoing proceeding in a lower court. Now there is no lower court proceeding so we are sending it back to the 11th circuit to rule on the merits of his constitutional challenge.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) complained that Justice Parker’s interview on the American Family Radio talk show regarding the US Supreme Court’s controversial marriage opinion violated Canon 3(A)(6) of the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics.

Canon 3(A)(6) allegedly prohibit 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.

Parker was never charged by the JIC, but if he had been, he would have been suspended pending a hearing. Parker is represented by Liberty Counsel in his federal lawsuit challenging Canon 3 and the automatic removal provision.

Parker’s federal lawsuit alleges that the speech restrictive judicial canon violates the First Amendment and the automatic removal violates due process and other constitutional provisions. Alabama is the only state to have this automatic removal provision that removes a judge for any charge.

The Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel Mat Staver said in a statement, “We are pleased that the complaint against Justice Tom Parker has been dismissed. Now we will focus on challenging the unconstitutional speech restriction in the judicial canon. This provision is so broad and such a clear violation of the First Amendment that no one can defend it. We will continue to challenge the automatic removal provision because it gives too much power to the JIC and that power has often been abused. This provision turns our justice system of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ on its head.”

Judge Parker told APR that the complaint against him was, “Just politics.”

 

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