Liberty Counsel, a Religious Right legal group that opposes legal equality for LGBT Americans, held a press conference on Wednesday with Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who has been waging a campaign of resistance to the Supreme Court’s June 2015 marriage equality ruling.
Moore and his Liberty Counsel lawyers were calling on the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission to dismiss ethical complaints that had been filed against Moore earlier in 2015 after he urged the governor not to comply with a federal court order on marriage equality. Moore, of course, had gotten in trouble before; in 2003 he was removed from his seat on the court when he refused a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he had installed in the rotunda of the judicial building.
People For the American Way Foundation was one of the groups that filed a complaint against Moore last year. The PFAWF complaint, which you can read here, was filed in early 2015, based on actions he took when he began to insert himself into a federal marriage equality case that was not before his court. He accused federal judges across the country of seeking to impose tyranny upon the nation, and he suggested he might not comply with a potential Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality (which came down a few months later). The complaint spells out the Canons of Judicial Ethics that Moore violated, undermining public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. “Like the United States as a whole, Alabama is governed by the rule of law,” the complaint concludes, noting that “the history of the state shows the violent and tragic consequences when that ideal is not met.” The complaint asked that Moore once again be removed from his office.
In defending Moore on Thursday, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver dismissed the complaints as “politically motivated” and warned that they “pose a threat to the doctrine of judicial independence.” Continued Staver, “Judges must be free to exercise their considered judgment without the threat of being attacked by organizations and individuals who wish to misuse the ethical process to further a radical political agenda.”
Staver’s concern for Moore’s judicial independence is touching, if a bit surprising, given that Staver was a cheerleader for Religious Right attacks on Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality. After a political campaign that was successful in unseating three state justices in 2010 retention elections, Staver crowed, “The justices crossed the line when they played the role of a legislator and abandoned judicial restraint.”
Moore also said at Wednesday’s press conference that this was about “judicial independence.” But when right-wing groups were cranking up the outrage machine against Iowa Supreme Court justices, Moore joined in the condemnation, saying that the conservative outcry against the justices would send “a signal all across the nation.”