Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is down, but not out. Now, the controversial justice is appealing his suspension from office to a special panel of seven retired judges who will decide whether to uphold the suspension or reinstate Moore, reports The Birmingham News.
The special panel of retired judges was convened after the members of the Alabama Supreme Court voted to recuse themselves from hearing Moore’s appeal.
Elected in 2012, Moore was suspended without pay for the remainder of his term — which ends in January 2019 — after the Court of the Judiciary found him guilty of violating judicial ethics in an attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing marriage equality, with which he disagreed. Moore, who previously served as Chief Justice from 2001 to 2003, was removed from office after he defied a federal judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building.
The right-wing legal firm Liberty Counsel, which is representing Moore, filed an appeal brief on the Chief Justice’s behalf. The appeal argues that the Court of the Judiciary exceeded its authority in suspending Moore for the remainder of his term, because by doing so, the court essentially removed him from office, even though it did not have the unanimous vote of all nine court members to officially do so.
“The enormity of the COJ’s gross excess of authority has profound implications for the judicial independence of every appellate, circuit, district and probate judge in the state,” the appeal reads.
The central issue in Moore’s ongoing saga surrounds his decision to issue an order to Alabama probate judges earlier this year telling them they still had to enforce Alabama’s state ban on same-sex marriages, even though the Supreme Court had struck down such bans in its Obergefell v. Hodges ruling in June 2015.
According to Moore, he was simply trying to advise probate judges on the status of an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that upheld the ban on same-sex marriage prior to the Obergefell ruling. But critics of the Chief Justice, who has a history of intervening in socially conservative causes, argued that he was trying to undermine the Supreme Court’s ruling. The Court of the Judiciary found the latter explanation to be more plausible.
“As Alabama chief justice, Roy Moore made a decision to advocate for his personal religious beliefs rather than fulfill his oath to uphold the United States Constitution,” said Richard Cohen, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed the initial complaint that eventually led to Moore’s suspension.
“[Moore] told the state’s 68 probate judges to violate a federal court order,” Cohen said in a statement. “In our opinion, the Court of the Judiciary got it right and was well within its authority to suspend Moore from the bench.”