Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore headed to trial on ethics charges

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Monday afternoon, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore appeared before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary on charges he violated Alabama’s ethical standards for judges.

Late this afternoon, the court denied Moore's motion to throw the case out and denied the Judicial Inquiry Commission's request to remove Moore from the bench. He is set to go on trial Sept. 28.

The hearing lasted for about an hour.


Moore is asking the Alabama Court of the Judiciary to dismiss the ethics complaint filed by the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission. The Judicial Inquiry Commission is asking for a summary judgment against Moore and his removal, instead of moving the matter to a trial.

The JIC alleges Moore's January 2016 order and his conduct surrounding it encouraged Alabama’s judges to disregard clear federal law.

Moore issued an order in January to Alabama’s probate judges, concerning same-sex marriage. Moore told the probate judges a ban on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples was still in effect until the Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling.

But Moore’s order came more than six months after the U.S. Supreme Court in its Obergefell decision had ruled state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

In a response filed with the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, Moore’s attorneys argue he was simply following the law and established procedure in his order, not defying the Supreme Court.

"A thematic deception that infuses the JIC brief is that the Chief Justice ordered the probate judges that they ‘had a duty, under Alabama law, not to issue same-sex marriage licenses,’” the filing argues. “The Chief Justice, however, did not on his own initiative direct the probate judges to follow Alabama marriage law.

“Instead he instructed them that ‘[u]ntil further decision by the Alabama Supreme Court’ they were still under a state-court injunction issued by that Court. He neither endorsed nor criticized that injunction. Because consideration of the effect of Obergefell on that injunction had been pending before the Alabama Supreme Court for six months, the Chief Justice considered it prudent to remind the probate judges that the injunction still remained in effect pending its review.”

Moore has said the current effort to discipline him is politically motivated.  In April, shortly before the Judicial Inquiry Commission announced its findings, Moore held a press conference.

He denounced his critics and singled out Dothan drag queen Ambrosia Starling, who was among those filing complaints with the JIC. He said Starling was someone who only a few years ago would have been diagnosed with a mental illness, gender confusion disorder.  Starling has fired back, offering to run for governor.

Moore has been suspended from the bench since May 6, when the Judicial Inquiry Commission issued its findings.

The matter is now before the Court of the Judiciary.

Dr. Jess Brown, WHNT News 19 political analyst, said the Court of the Judiciary is unique and has a number of options if it decides disciplining Moore is appropriate.

“They can publicly censure him, they can temporarily remove him from the bench, they can permanently throw him out of office, they can remove him from the bench with pay or without pay, they’ve got a wide range of options,” Brown said.

Brown said he doesn’t know how the court will proceed, but said he thinks it will take note that this is the second time Moore has been called before it.

Moore was removed from the bench as chief justice in 2003 after refusing a federal court order to remove a 10 Commandments monument from the state judicial building.

Moore was reelected chief justice in 2012.