MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP/WIAT) — Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore lost his effort to regain his job on Wednesday as the Alabama Supreme Court upheld his suspension for urging defiance of the federal courts’ landmark rulings allowing gays and lesbians to marry.
Moore’s fate was in the hands of specially appointed judges who were selected at random after his colleagues on the state’s highest court recused themselves, and these judges upheld both the findings that Moore violated judicial ethics with his actions and his suspension for the remainder of his term. The judges found “clear and convincing evidence” that Moore urged Alabama’s probate judges to defy the federal courts on same-sex marriage.
Moore is the third Republican politician in Alabama to be removed from his duties during a season of scandal in Alabama. The state’s House speaker was convicted of ethics charges last year. Gov. Robert Bentley resigned last week amid an effort to impeach him after the fallout from an alleged affair.
On Jan. 6, 2016, six months after the highest court in the nation ruled that gays and lesbians have a fundamental right to marry, Moore issued a memo to the state’s 68 state probate judges saying that a 2015 Alabama Supreme Court order to refuse marriage licenses to gay couples remained in “full force and effect.” The probate judges at the time of Moore’s memo also were under a federal judge’s order to stop enforcing the state’s gay-marriage ban following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The Alabama Court of the Judiciary, the panel that disciplines judges, ruled in September that Moore violated judicial ethics by urging judges to defy clearly established law as well as the direct federal court order.
Moore scheduled an afternoon press conference at the Alabama Capitol for Wednesday where he laid out his views on the ruling.
“I consider this sentence to be illegal, and a clear disregard of the will of the people who elected me to the office of Chief Justice,” Moore said. “Today’s decision has hurt me financially. It has hurt me in the past many months I have stood for this appeal to protect the judges in this state from an overbearing imposition on the offices.”
Moore’s attorneys from the Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit legal and political organization with Evangelical values, said Wednesday’s decision sets a dangerous precedent for judges across Alabama, who can be suspended without pay for simply issuing an opinion.
According to Moore and his attorneys, Wednesday’s press conference was planned months ahead of the Supreme Court decision. They said they did not know that a decision would come Wednesday, let alone roughly 45 minutes before the press conference was scheduled.
Moore called the case against him a “politically motivated effort by the Judicial Inquiry Commission and certain homosexual and transgender groups to remove me from office because of my steadfast opposition to same-sex marriage,” and called on the Alabama legislature to “do away with this corrupt system.”
Moore also addressed rumors of a possible run for the U.S. Senate seat currently occupied by Luther Strange.
He said he will announce his future political plans early next week.
Moore, 69, is prohibited for running again for Chief Justice when his term is up in 2019 because of his age.
Kim Chandler with the Associated Press contributed to this report