Ethics panel wants to give anti-gay Alabama chief justice the boot

Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, speaks during a news conference at the Judicial Building in Montgomery, Ala., Wednesday, April 27, 2016. Moore says a judicial ethics panel should dismiss complaints filed against him as he fought to keep gays and lesbians from marrying in the state.

Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, speaks during a news conference at the Judicial Building in Montgomery, Ala., Wednesday, April 27, 2016. Moore says a judicial ethics panel should dismiss complaints filed against him as he fought to keep gays and lesbians from marrying in the state. (Mickey Welsh/Montgomery Advertiser via AP)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore should be swiftly removed from office for a second time because he urged the state’s probate judges to defy federal courts on gay marriage, a state ethics commission argued Friday.

The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission wrote in the court filing that Moore — who was ousted from the bench in 2003 for refusing to remove a boulder-sized Ten Commandments monument at a state building — was again flouting the rule of law, but this time he was urging 68 probate judges to do so with him.

“Because the chief justice has proven — and promised — that he will not change his behavior, he has left this Court with no choice but to remove him from office to preserve the integrity, independence, impartiality of Alabama’s judiciary and the citizens who depend on it for justice,” lawyers for the commission wrote in the filing with the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.

The commission said Moore disrespected the judiciary when he told probate judges in January that a state injunction against same-sex marriage remained in “full force and effect” even though the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled six months prior that gays and lesbians had a fundamental right to marry and a federal judge had ordered the judges not to enforce Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban.

The ethics accusations against Moore are part of a series of scandals engulfing Republicans at the helm of Alabama’s three branches of government. House Speaker Mike Hubbard was removed from office in June after being convicted on corruption charges. The House Judiciary Committee is investigating whether grounds exist to impeach Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary, a panel of judges, lawyers and citizens who hear misconduct complaints against judges, will decide if Moore violated the standards of judicial ethics. Moore urged the court to dismiss the case. In the response filed Friday, the commission argued there were sufficient grounds to go ahead and remove Moore from office instead of hashing out the matter in a trial-like proceeding.

Moore had argued the complaint is baseless and he never ordered state probate judges to refuse wedding licenses to gay couples. His attorneys have said that Moore was correctly summarizing the status of a state injunction in answer to questions from probate judges.

“The Administrative Order of Chief Justice Moore expressly said he could not provide guidance to the probate judges because the matter was pending before the Alabama Supreme Court,” Moore’s attorney Mat Staver said in a statement last month.

The commission responded that Moore was playing “semantic gamesmanship.”

“This is a case about the rule of law and Chief Justice Moore’s continued flouting of our nation’s foundational principles,” the panel said.

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