By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, December 7, 2016, the Alabama Supreme Court has sent an order to the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) giving them fourteen days to show cause as to why the Motion to Intervene and Unseal filed by The Alabama Political Reporter should not be granted.
The JIC sealed all the file on their case against Alabama Chief Justice Roy S. Moore (R). Normally cases are sealed to protect the privacy of the accused; but Chief Justice Moore has consistently stated that he wanted the case unsealed and made public.
On October 19th The Alabama Political Reporter in our role as a leader of the Alabama free press has filed a motion with the Alabama Supreme Court demanding that the case be unsealed so the public can see the details of the case. To this point the JIC has not provided us or the Supreme Court any rationale for their decision to keep this case sealed, even though the accused, Chief Justice Moore and his defense team, have made it clear that he wants it made public.
In September 30, 2016 the majority of the members of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary (COJ) found in favor of the JIC and ruled that Chief Justice Moore violated the canons of judicial ethics, when in January he refused to order the state’s probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. The COJ suspended the Chief Justice for the remainder of his term. Moore’s defense team argues that the Chief Justice did not have the authority to order the probate judges to give homosexual couples marriage licenses, while the full state Supreme Court was still considering the issue.
Chief Justice Moore is appealing the COJ verdict arguing that suspending him from office without pay for the remainder of his term is tantamount to removing him from the Court—something that the COJ by law can do only with a unanimous vote. The COJ itself was divided on the case, so a unanimous verdict to remove Chief Justice Moore was impossible. The majority of the Court of Judiciary instead suspended Moore through 2018.
The Alabama Supreme Court has recused themselves from hearing Chief Justice Moore’s appeal. Instead a group of retired judges will hear Chief Justice Moore’s appeal.
Kayla Moore, the wife of Chief Justice Moore, said of Wednesday’s order, “At least they are showing some action on that case.”
The JIC charges are based on a complaint filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Moore has been elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court twice. Moore was first elected Chief Justice in 2000; but was removed by the COJ after the JIC charged Moore with refusing a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument in the Supreme Court building while he appealed the case. The people of Alabama elected Moore to head the state’s court system again in 2012. Moore was suspended in May when the JIC brought charges against him.
Moore has been mentioned by many political observers as a possible candidate for governor in 2018. Moore unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2006 and 2010.