Ala. Justice Roy Moore removed from office by judicial court
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP)--A judicial court removed Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore from office Nov. 13, saying he violated the state's code of judicial ethics by not following a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument.
In a 13-page decision, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary said that while it recognizes the acknowledgment of God is part of the "fabric of our country," Moore's refusal to obey the court order in August warranted his removal.
"[T]here is no penalty short of removal from office that would resolve this issue," the unanimous ruling, written by William C. Thompson and signed by all nine judges, read. "Anything short of removal would only serve to set up another confrontation that would ultimately bring us back to where we are today."
In a news conference following the ruling, Moore told reporters he and his lawyers are reviewing their legal options. He reiterated his belief that the Alabama constitution requires an acknowledgment of God.
"I have absolutely no regrets. I have done what I was sworn to do," he said to applause from supporters.
The 5,300-pound Ten Commandments monument sat in the rotunda of the State Judicial Building for two years until late August, when it was removed from public view following a judge's order. Judge Myron Thompson ordered it removed by Aug. 20, but Moore refused, and his associate judges overruled him. It was moved out of public view Aug. 27.
Moore told reporters Nov. 13 he has no animosity toward the judges who removed him but he said a wide difference in beliefs exists in the country.
"There is a basic philosophical difference in this country of what law is," he said. "Law is not an order of court, and we've got to get that straight. If we follow the rule of man and not the rule of law, we're disregarding everything we're sworn to uphold."
But the Court of the Judiciary disagreed, saying that Moore "is the chief judicial officer of this State and is held to a higher standard than a member of the general public."
"Chief Justice Moore did not have the legal authority to decide whether the federal court order issued to him in his official capacity as the State's highest judicial officer should be obeyed; rather, he was constitutionally mandated to obey it," the court wrote.
"... Chief Justice Moore sought legal redress by appealing to the limit of judicial review; he was bound by, and had the duty to follow, the rulings of the federal courts."
Moore and the court divided over the significance of the preamble to the Alabama constitution, which states in part that the "people of the State of Alabama" invoke "the favor and guidance of Almighty God." Moore consistently has said the constitution requires an acknowledgment of God, but the court disagreed.
"The general rule is that courts interpret preambles as statements of general purpose and intent and not as sources of authority for the government," the court wrote. "... In the event of conflict between the constitutions of Alabama and the United States, the Constitution of the United States must prevail."
Moore, though, asserted that a level of inconsistency rests in the nation's judiciary.
"We've got to stop the hypocrisy in this country," he said. "We've got to stop courts that will open with 'God save the United States and this honorable court' and then say [we] can't acknowledge God. We've got to stop judges who put their hand on the Bible and say, 'So help me God,' and then go into court and ... deny the very Creator God upon which this nation and our laws are founded."
Moore said he would remove the Ten Commandments monument from the building and ask Congress to put it in the capitol building. By doing so Congress would be making "a statement that it is our inalienable right to acknowledge God."
The nation must stand up to the actions of courts, Moore said.
"Unless we do, the public acknowledgment of God will be taken from us," he said. "'In God We Trust' will be taken from our money and 'One Nation Under God' from our pledge."
The Judicial Inquiry Commission, which filed the complaint against Moore, said that the justice violated the code of judicial ethics by:
-- failing to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary.
-- failing to observe high standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary might be preserved.
-- failing to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.
-- failing to respect and comply with the law.
-- failing to conduct himself in a manner promoting public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
-- failing to avoid conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice so as to bring the judicial office into disrepute.
Interestingly, Moore said he would be making "an announcement next week which could alter the course of this country and the course of our state and our nation." He did not give any hints as to what it would be.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: JUDGE ROY MOORE.