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SPLC submits new judicial ethics complaint against Alabama chief justice as 11th Circuit rejects stay in same-sex marriage case

The SPLC is seeking the removal of Alabama’s chief justice for flouting rule of law, refusing to recognize supremacy of U.S. Supreme Court in same-sex marriage case.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s recent statement that he may not comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling should it legalize same-sex marriage is more proof that he is violating judicial ethics, according to a supplemental complaint the SPLC submitted today in its ongoing judicial ethics complaint against Moore.

The action comes as the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today rejected Alabama’s request for a stay of last week’s federal court order allowing same-sex marriages to begin in the state on Feb. 9.

The supplement filed with the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama includes Moore’s statements during a talk radio interview where he said it would be a “very hard decision” whether to follow such an order by the Supreme Court. The comments were made on The Matt Murphy Show on 1070 WAPI-AM radio in Birmingham on Thursday (read the transcript) – a day after the SPLC’s initial ethics complaint was filed.

Read the supplemental complaint: 

“In 2003, responsible public officials in Alabama had no choice but to remove Chief Justice Moore from office because he refused to comply with a binding federal court order,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “By now raising the possibility that he may not comply with a United States Supreme Court decision, Moore has proven that he has not learned his lesson. 

“Justice Moore is intoxicated by his own sense of self-righteousness. He doesn’t seem to understand that we’re a nation of laws, not of men.”

Last week, Moore vowed in a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley to “stop judicial tyranny” following the federal judge’s ruling. The judge’s order overturning the ban is on hold until Feb. 9, but Moore’s letter encouraged probate judges to disobey it once it goes into effect. Today, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the state’s request to extend the stay pending appeal. The plaintiffs have asked Judge Granade to lift the stay immediately. If she does, marriages could begin today. 

“Now that the 11th Circuit has refused to grant a stay, it is incumbent on the Judicial Inquiry Commission to move quickly so the state can avoid the confrontation with the federal courts that Justice Moore has been inviting,” said Cohen. 

The SPLC’s new filing notes that Moore’s claim that his comments are part of his duty as chief justice is also incorrect.

“In an effort to justify his obviously unethical conduct, Justice Moore has stated that it’s his responsibility to instruct the probate courts about their obligations,” Cohen said. “But as Moore surely knows, the people of Alabama – through their elected representatives – have reserved that responsibility to the Alabama attorney general.”

The SPLC’s original complaint describes how Moore has committed numerous ethics violations, noting that he is encouraging lawlessness by attempting to assemble state officials and judges to oppose the federal court system.

The Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama 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.

The opinion removing Moore from the bench states that the oath of chief justice commands Moore “to support both the United States and Alabama Constitutions.” It also notes 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.