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Legal response filed in Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice Tom Parker’s case

Sam Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

A legal response has been filed for Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice Tom Parker in his ethics case.

The Liberty Counsel, a conservative non-profit advocacy group, filed the legal response on Friday March 11, in Parker’s case.

The case was started when the Southern Poverty Law Center filed an ethics complaint against Parker for an interview he participated in. In October 2015, Parker went on a conservative talk radio program hosted by Bryan Fischer. Fischer is a member of the conservative group American Family Organization.

In the interview, Parker talked about the Obergefell decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that made state bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

“I doubt that it would be a blanket defiance of all jurisdiction of the US Supreme Court, but in regard to the Obergefell decision, where it was clear that they jumped outside all the precedents in order to impose their will on this country, that yes, resisting that decision could maybe state a revival of what we need in this country to return to our founding principles,” Parker said according to court documents.

The SPLC said Parker’s comments undermine the legitimacy of the Supreme Court. They said this violates the oath of office which includes a promise to not undermine the Constitution. They also said Parker has violated the Alabama Cannon of Judicial Ethics.

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The SPLC filed an ethics complaint with the Judicial Inquiry Commission.

“Justice Parker through his comments foments the false impression in the public’s mind that the Federal Judiciary has tyrannically taken for itself unconstitutional power such that state courts like the Alabama Supreme Court must initiate a “revival,” that is, stand up to and defy the United States Supreme Court,” the complaint from the SPLC said.

The Liberty Counsel has a different take on Parker’s comments. In the legal response, they said Parker’s free speech is being infringed upon.

“The JIC’s (Judicial Inquiry Commission) year-long investigation into Justice Parker’s constitutionally protected speech demonstrates the ongoing threat to his cherished constitutional liberties,” an excerpt from the response said. “Indeed, the undeniable prospect of future ethics complaints lodged against Justice Parker for his political speech based upon the same Canons at issue in the previous investigation causes an intolerable chill on Justice Parker’s speech,”

In a press release, the Liberty Counsel said that parts of the Alabama Cannon of Judicial Ethics are meant to silence the freedom of speech that judges should be allowed to exercise.

“Justice Parker is challenging the rules governing the Alabama judges which have been abandoned in every other state and have been labeled ‘unconstitutional’ by the American Bar Association,” the press release said. “These rules have chilled speech to such a great extent that it seeks to completely silence Alabama judges in any public setting”

In addition to the Parker case, the SPLC also filed ethic charges against Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Moore was suspended in September 2016, by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.

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