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Lyn Stuart becomes State’s second female Chief Justice

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY — For the first time in Alabama’s history, women are at the helm of two of the State’s Branches of Government.

On Wednesday, Gov. Kay Ivey appointed Associate Justice Lyn Stuart to lead Alabama’s judicial system as Supreme Court Chief Justice. Stuart, only the second woman to become chief justice in the state, had been serving as Acting Chief Justice since Chief Justice Roy Moore’s suspension in May 2016.

“To ensure a continuity of leadership and a smooth transition that keeps the ship of state steady, I have appointed Justice Lyn Stuart as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court,” Ivey said. “Chief Justice Stuart has served with honor and integrity on the high court for more than 16 years. I look forward to working with her as she now leads the judicial branch of State government.”

Ivey appointed Stuart to the post after Moore resigned his position Wednesday afternoon. Moore, who was found guilty in September of violating judicial ethics, plans to run in the special election later this year for the US Senate seat formerly held by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Stuart, the first female Republican Chief Justice, will serve out the rest of Moore’s term, which is set to expire in January 2019. She has said she will seek re-election to the post in the 2018 statewide General Election.

The new Chief Justice already has some competition for next year’s election. Association Justice Tom Parker, a longtime Moore ally who called his removal unlawful, announced Wednesday that he will seek the Republican party’s nomination for Chief Justice.

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“Alabama is a conservative state,” Parker said. “We revere the constitution and the rule of law. And I believe our courts are the battleground for our God-given rights as free people.”

Ivey has yet to announce who she will appoint as an associate justice to fill the empty seat on the nine-member court.

Stuart received her law degree from the University of Alabama Law School in 1980 and began her judicial career as a district judge in 1988. She was first elected to the Alabama Supreme Court in 2000.

A Special Supreme Court empaneled to hear Moore’s appeal of the 2016 ethics ruling upheld his permanent suspension, which was set to last until his term expired in 2019. The suspension effectively ended his judicial career, leaving him as Chief Justice in title only. He was removed from the court, lost his office, his employees and his power.

The Court of the Judiciary — the nine-member panel that reviews ethics complaints against the State’s judges — suspended Moore on Sept. 30, 2016, for issuing an administrative order regarding same-sex marriage, which the Court ruled was a violation of the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics.

The Judicial Inquiry Commission, which acted as a prosecutor in the case, said Moore’s administrative order, issued on Jan. 6, 2016, directed the probate judges to defy the US Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which effectively legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

At the time, he said probate judges had a “ministerial duty” to not issue same-sex marriage licenses because of previous Alabama Supreme Court rulings and Alabama’s traditional marriage amendments.

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Moore, who has been an avid opponent of same-sex marriage throughout his judicial career, now plans to run against US Sen. Luther Strange, whom Bentley appointed to Sessions’ seat in February.

In his campaign announcement Wednesday, Moore said the Federal government — a familiar opponent for him — needs to get back to a strict interpretation of the US Constitution.

“You know before we can make America great again, we have got to make America good again,” Moore said. “The foundations of the fabric of our country are being shaken tremendously. Our families are being crippled by divorce and abortion. Our sacred institution of marriage has being destroyed by the Supreme Court.”

This isn’t the first time Moore lost his job on the Alabama Supreme Court. The same judicial panel removed him from his post in 2003 after he refused to comply with a Federal court order directing him to remove a two-ton Ten Commandments monument from the State’s Judicial building. Moore, who was elected to the court again in 2012, never finished either of his terms of Chief Justice.

Email Chip Brownlee at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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