Alabama Chief Justice to Face Ethics Trial
(CN) — Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore must stand trial on charges he violated judicial ethics by ordering probate judges not to issue same-sex marriage licenses in defiance of federal courts, a state judicial panel ruled.
Moore gave the controversial order six months after the U.S. Supreme Court's historic Obergefell v. Hodges ruling in June 2015, which legalized same-sex marriage across the nation.
He was suspended from presiding over Alabama's top court May and charged with six counts of judicial ethics violations by the Judicial Inquiry Commission.
On Monday, Moore asked the Alabama Court of the Judiciary to throw the charges against him out, but in a unanimous decision, the court ruled the case against the longtime -- and often controversial jurist -- must proceed.
Citing a conflict between the U.S. Supreme Court ruling and a prior Alabama Supreme Court decision, Moore claimed his Jan. 6 order that probate judges had a "ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment or the Alabama Marriage Protection Act" until further notice was provided for by state Supreme Court precedent.
According to the complaint filed by the Judicial Inquiry Commission, the order also ignored a federal injunction that was already in place, preventing probate judges from using the state's marriage laws to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses.
The complaint charged Moore with failing to uphold "the integrity and independence of the judiciary," as well as failing to "perform the duties of his office impartially."
From the complaint: "By issuing his unilateral order of January 6, 2016, Chief Justice Moore flagrantly disregarded a fundamental constitutional right guaranteed in all states, as declared by the United States Court in Obergefell."
Moore's case is the latest high-profile ethics case to hit the State of Alabama this year. Former House Speaker Mike Hubbard was convicted in June on criminal ethics violations, while Gov. Robert Bentley is currently facing impeachment proceedings by the House Judiciary Committee. Bentley's troubles stemmed from an inappropriate relationship with a female staffer.
Moore himself was previously removed from the Alabama Supreme Court in 2003 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building. He was reelected to the position in 2012.
Moore is set to go to trial Sept. 28.