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SPLC files ethics complaint against Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore over pledge to defy federal law and enforce same-sex marriage ban

The SPLC today filed a judicial ethics complaint against Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore over his public statements urging the governor and Alabama judges to defy federal law and enforce Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages.

The complaint was filed with the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama, which could recommend that Moore face ethics charges in the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. That court removed Moore from the office of chief justice 12 years ago after he refused to comply with a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building.

“Moore is once again wrapping himself in the Bible and thumbing his nose at the federal courts and federal law,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “As a private citizen, Moore is entitled to his views. But as the chief justice of Alabama, he has a responsibility to recognize the supremacy of federal law and to conform his conduct to the canons of judicial ethics.”

Moore vowed in the letter to stand with Gov. Robert Bentley to “stop judicial tyranny” following a federal judge’s ruling in Mobile last week that overturned the ban. The order is on hold until Feb. 9, but Moore’s letter encouraged probate judges to disobey it once it is in effect. The letter, which was written on state Supreme Court letterhead, was sent to the governor Tuesday and released to the media. In an interview with WSFA following the letter’s release, Moore threatened “a confrontation” with the federal courts.

The SPLC complaint describes how Moore has committed numerous ethics violations, noting that he is encouraging lawlessness by attempting to assemble a virtual army of state officials and judges to oppose the federal judiciary and its “tyranny” – the opposite of what is expected from the state’s chief judge.

The SPLC complaint also outlines other violations by Moore, including publicly commenting on a pending case – the federal case that overturned the ban – as well as impending cases: the same-sex marriage cases likely to come before state judges, including Moore, if same-sex marriage is legalized in Alabama.

“We have gone down this road before during the civil rights movement,” Cohen said. “The chief justice is trotting out the same tired – and disproven – states’ rights arguments that were used to disenfranchise African Americans. Even if Moore isn’t a student of history, you would think he would be a student of his own history. The opinion that removed him from the bench in disgrace more than a decade ago clearly explained why he can’t ignore the federal courts.”

That opinion stated that the oath of chief justice commands Moore “to support both the United States and Alabama Constitutions.” It also states that if there is a conflict between the documents, “the Constitution of the United States must prevail.”

The 2003 opinion followed a successful SPLC lawsuit to remove the judge’s Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building.