MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A federal judge has dismissed a federal lawsuit filed by attorneys for Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore challenging the constitutionality of the charges leveled against the “Ten Commandments Judge” and seeking his immediate reinstatement to the bench.
U.S. District Court Judge W. Harold Albritton issued a notice that he was dismissing the suit because he does not believe that federal courts should intervene in state proceedings.
“Chief Justice Moore has asked this federal court to hold that the disqualification provision of the Judicial Article of the Alabama Constitution violates his due process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and to enjoin its enforcement and reinstate him fully to his service as Chief Justice while the charges against him are proceeding,” he wrote.
“He has chosen not to allow the state courts to determine his federal constitutional challenges, but instead to ask this federal court to act,” Albritton continued. “This court, out of respect for the state court’s proceedings for determining discipline of the state’s elected judges, in the manner provided by the state’s own constitution, declines to do so.”
As previously reported, Moore was suspended from the bench in May and now faces possible removal after the homosexual advocacy groups Southern Poverty Law Center, People for the American Way, the Human Rights Campaign, and a drag queen who goes by the name Ambrosia Starling, pressed the JIC to take action against Moore.
The situation began in 2013 when two lesbians in the state sued Gov. Robert Bentley, Attorney General Luther Strange and Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis—among others—in an attempt to overturn Alabama’s marriage amendment after one of the women was denied from adopting the other woman’s child.
In January 2015, U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade ruled in favor of the women, prompting Moore to send a memo to probate judges throughout the state, advising that they are not required to issue “marriage” licenses to same-sex couples as he believed that Grenade’s ruling only applied to the two women.
“[N]othing in the orders of Judge Grenadae requires Alabama probate judges to issue marriage licenses that are illegal in Alabama,” he wrote. “Pursuant to … the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Alabama probate judges are not subject to those orders because the probate judges are not parties or associated with any party in those cases.”
“[T]he injunction and the stay or the lifting thereof can only apply to the sole defendant, the Alabama attorney general,” Moore said. “I urge you to uphold and support the Alabama Constitution and the Constitution of the United States to the best of your ability. So help you God.”
Moore also wrote a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley, urging him to “uphold and support the Alabama Constitution with respect to marriage, both for the welfare of this state and for our posterity.”
“Be advised that I will stand with you to stop judicial tyranny and any unlawful opinions issued without constitutional authority,” he stated.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) then filed a judicial ethics complaint against Moore over his letter to Gov. Bentley, and the homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) submitted 28,000 petition signatures to the JIC calling for Moore’s removal.
As confusion ensued over Moore’s letter to probate judges, one judge, John Enslen of Elmore County, asked the full Alabama Supreme Court for further guidance. In March 2015, six of the nine judges of the Alabama Supreme Court released a historic order halting the issuance of same-sex “marriage” licenses in the state. Moore recused himself from the matter and was not included in the order.
“As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for ‘marriage’ between only one man and one woman,” the 148-page order read. “Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.”
In January, Moore sent another letter advising that the full court’s would remain in effect until it issued directives in light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.
“Until further decision by the Alabama Supreme Court, the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court that Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment or the Alabama Marriage Protection Act remain in full force and effect,” he wrote on Jan. 6.
He also noted that his order does not weigh in on how June’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling has impact on the Alabama Supreme Court’s directive, and said that it was not his place to make that determination.
“I am not at liberty to provide any guidance to Alabama probate judges on the effect of Obergefell on the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court. That issue remains before the entire court, which continues to deliberate on the matter,” Moore wrote.
In May, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) announced that it had filed ethics charges against Moore, and suspended the chief justice while he faces a trial before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.
It said that Moore was “bound by the United State Supreme Court’s interpretation and application” of the Constitution to same-sex “marriage,” but Moore notes that his letter had nothing to do with the Supreme Court order, and that the full court was to later issue directives about the matter after receiving legal briefing.
Attorneys for the legal group Liberty Counsel soon filed suit against the JIC, stating that the entity has no authority to render legal opinions when it disagrees with a judge’s view of the law, and that the automatic suspension requirement in the Alabama Constitution violates due process.
It stood by its view on Thursday after Albritton dismissed the case.
“Alabama’s automatic removal provision goes against the assumption in law that a person is innocent until proven otherwise,” said Founder Mat Staver in a statement. “This provision should be struck down. We will discuss the matter with our client about appealing the ruling.”
“We have preserved this issue in the state proceeding and will continue our challenge to this automatic removal provision,” he continued. We are ready for Monday’s hearing to address the politically-motivated charges filed against Chief Justice Moore.”
A hearing is scheduled surrounding the ethics charges on Aug. 8.