Spring 2016 Editorial Board
On March 7, the Supreme Court of the United States overruled Alabama’s Supreme Court, adding another example of federally appointed judges striking down the opinion of our elected state justices.
The case focused on a valence issue for Alabama politicians: the rights of same-sex couples. Alabama’s Supreme Court held that a lesbian parent could not have visiting rights to her adopted children.
Naturally, the vast majority of Alabama Supreme Court justices were compelled to deny the mother her right, with seven justices supporting the ruling and two dissenting. Justice Tom Parker wrote in a concurring opinion statement, “The State has a legitimate interest in encouraging that children be adopted into the optimal family structure, i.e., one with both a father and a mother.”
Time and time again, the Alabama’s highest court has made Alabama look like a national disgrace.
In 2003, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore was removed from office by Alabama’s judicial ethics panel for disobeying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state Supreme Court building.
Despite the First Amendment that Moore is supposed to acknowledge and protect, he decided his personal religion should weigh heaviest in his decision calculus. Less than a decade later, Alabama voted Moore back into office as chief justice of Alabama.
In January 2016, Moore issued a statement reminding state probate judges that his directive to prohibit judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses had not been lifted.
Therefore, he argued, judges are not allowed to follow the federal ruling that same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional. This sort of dissonance could cause federal litigation, which the federal government would ultimately win, wasting Alabama taxpayers’ money.
From its collective actions to the actions of its chief justice, Alabama’s history dictates something must change fundamentally on the high court. Instead of having what is essentially a nine-person legislature, Alabama should amend its constitution and change judicial elections to judicial appointments.
That way, judges won’t be so apt to please the masses by throwing out the Constitution in the name of religion. Judges would feel secure enough in their jobs to make decisions based purely off good judicial philosophy.
By doing this, politics will be less of a factor when it comes to making sound judicial decisions. Politics and justice do not always mesh well together.
To further ensure that judges’ positions are safe enough to make conscionable, and sometimes unpopular, decisions, term limits should be increased from six to 15 years.
If these changes were made, it is our hope that pandering, anti-constitutional men and women will be less likely to assume Alabama’s most powerful and influential judicial positions.