MONTGOMERY – Attorney General Bill Pryor called Monday for suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore to be removed from office for what he called flagrant ethics violations.
Moore placed himself above the law when he defied a federal court order to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building rotunda and his removal is necessary to protect the public, Pryor wrote in legal documents filed in preparation for Moore’s trial Wednesday before the Court of the Judiciary.
“Because the chief justice intentionally and publicly engaged in misconduct, and because he remains unrepentant for his behavior, this court must remove the chief justice from office to protect the Alabama judiciary and the citizens who depend upon it for fair and impartial justice,” Pryor wrote.
“While the head of Alabama’s judicial system, Chief Justice Moore flagrantly disobeyed the law, incited the public to support his misconduct and undermined the integrity, independence, and impartiality of the judiciary,” Pryor stated.
Moore’s attorney disagreed. “The exact opposite is true,” said Terry Butts, a former state Supreme Court justice. “The chief justice, by following his oath, upheld the integrity of the judiciary, because as chief justice he has a fundamental duty to restore the moral foundation of law and to speak on it.”
A recent poll by the Alabama Education Association showed that 67 percent of Alabamians think Moore shouldn’t be removed from office, which “bolsters our argument that the vast majority of the people out there thinks that he has upheld the integrity of the court system,” Butts said.
In that same poll, however, 58 percent of Alabamians said Moore should have obeyed the court order and removed the monument.
Pryor is prosecuting Moore on behalf of the state Judicial Inquiry Commission, which accused Moore of violating six state judicial ethics rules. Under the state constitution, he is suspended with pay while the charges are pending. If the court finds that Moore has violated the ethics rules, it can remove him from office, continue his suspension with or without pay or impose other sanctions.
At a news conference Monday, Moore said he is apprehensive about his upcoming trial but “not afraid of the truth.”
“My apprehension is that the truth is not going to come out,” he said. He wouldn’t say what he might do if he is removed from office. He did criticize an earlier decision to bar television cameras from the courtroom.
“The Court of the Judiciary should be afraid of the public” and of adverse public opinion for banning cameras from the courtroom, Moore said. “It’s supposed to be a public trial.”
The Supreme Court courtroom and another room equipped with electronic monitors have a combined seating capacity of about 290. All of those seats already have been reserved for the trial. Moore said he would have been willing to rent an auditorium and wanted cameras covering the trial so the public could see it.
`Lawless behavior’ :
Pryor said Moore’s six ethics violations are that he failed to respect and comply with the law; to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary; to observe high standards of conduct; to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety; to conduct himself in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and to avoid conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
Butts said Moore is innocent of all six of the charges.
Pryor said Moore not only defied the federal order but also “sought to incite the public to support his lawless behavior.”
Pryor cited a Moore decision while a circuit judge in Gadsden to find a man in contempt of court for failing to obey one of Moore’s orders. The Court of Civil Appeals later ruled that Moore lacked authority to decide the case but that he had correctly held the man in contempt of court because he had failed to obey the order.
“Following the chief justice’s example, a deadbeat dad could refuse to pay child support if he disagreed with the support order,” Pryor stated.
Butts, in his pre-trial brief, noted that Pryor supported Moore’s placement of the Ten Commandments monument in the judicial building rotunda. He said Pryor appears to be “a man of courage and a man who acts on principle,” but he argued that Pryor’s actions now are tantamount to saying Moore’s oath of office was taken to a federal judge rather than to the state constitution. He compared the stance to that of judges in Nazi Germany who swore allegiance to Hitler.