Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore on trial over judicial ethics charges

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore testified for about an hour this morning in his ethics trial, saying he did not instruct probate judges to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling.

Moore’s trial before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary follows charges by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission that Moore violated the state’s canon of ethics by wading into the same-sex marriage debate well after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled.

Moore's lawyers asked the court to dismiss the charges, attorneys for the JIC said Moore should be removed from office.

The trial ended about 2:30 p.m., Wednesday without a verdict. The court of the judiciary has 10 days to issue a ruling.

The JIC alleges Moore's January 2016 order and his conduct surrounding it encouraged Alabama’s judges to disregard clear federal law. Moore issued a memo 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 his testimony Wednesday morning, Moore said the JIC’s claim that he was directing state judges to defy the U.S. Supreme was “ridiculous.” He testified states that weren’t party to the lawsuit that led to the Obergefell decision, like Alabama, had to update their own laws, and he was seeking to clear up confusion for the state’s probate judges.

Attorneys for the Judicial Inquiry Commission pointed to Moore’s statements decrying same-sex marriage and noted that after Moore issued his memo in January, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said the Obergefell decision was the law of the land.

Moore was removed from the bench as chief justice in 2003 after refusing a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building.  Moore was reelected chief justice in 2012.