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Judicial ethics complaint: Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and same-sex marriage

After Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore urged the state’s governor and judges to defy federal law and enforce Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2015, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a series of judicial ethics complaint against Moore that could result in the chief justice being removed from the bench for a second time.

The complaints were filed with the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama, which will determine if Moore faces ethics charges in the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. The Court of the Judiciary removed Moore from the office of chief justice once before (see Glassroth v. Moore), in 2003, in response to an SPLC ethics complaint after he refused to comply with a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument that he installed in the state judicial building.

Moore vowed in a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley that he would stand with the governor to “stop judicial tyranny” following a federal judge’s ruling that overturned the state’s same-sex marriage ban in 2015. The letter, which was written on state Supreme Court letterhead, was sent to the governor and released to the media. In a television interview 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 encouraged 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 complaints also allege that Moore repeatedly commented on pending cases; undermined the public’s confidence in the integrity of the judiciary by denigrating the federal courts and threatening to defy them; and improperly lent the prestige of his office to the Foundation for Moral Law, a private organization that his wife runs and that he founded.