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UPDATED: Roy Moore files appeal over suspension

Updated at 3:00 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 4. to include information about Moore's appeal.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s judicial career is effectively over nearly 13 years after he was first removed from the court in 2003. But he doesn’t want it to end.

In a ruling released Friday, Sept. 30, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary suspended Moore without pay for the remainder of his term, which ends in 2019.

The chief justice filed an appeal Tuesday, Oct. 4, with the Court of the Judiciary. The appeal will be handed up to the Alabama Supreme Court.

“These baseless charges should be dismissed and the Chief Justice should be reinstated,” said Mat Staver, Moore’s attorney, Wednesday. “To suspend Chief Justice Moore for the duration of his term is a miscarriage of justice and the same as removal.

With the verdict, Moore wasn’t removed from his position. So he won’t lose his title, but he also won’t be able to participate on the state’s Supreme Court for the rest of his term.

The embattled chief justice will also owe the state for the cost of the trial.

“Based upon the clear and convincing evidence of Chief Justice Moore’s violations of the Canons of Judicial Ethics, his disregard for binding federal law exhibited in the Jan. 6, 2016, order and his history with this court ... Moore should be suspended from office without pay for the remainder of his term,” the ruling stated.

Moore, who became famous for vehemently opposing same-sex marriage and transgender rights, said his suspension was the result of others’ contempt for his views. 

“This was a politically motivated effort by radical homosexual and transgender groups to remove me as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court because of outspoken opposition to their immoral agenda,” Moore said of the verdict. “This opinion violates not only the legal standards of evidence but also the rule of law which states that no judge can be removed from office except by unanimous vote.”

Moore’s wife, Kayla Moore, who is the president of the Montgomery-based Foundation for Moral Law, spoke out in support of her husband. The chief justice founded the organization during his first term in 2002 and currently serves as the president emeritus.

“The ruling regarding our founder Chief Justice Roy Moore is nothing more than persecution of a Christian official,” she said.

The verdict follows a day-long trial in front the Alabama Court of Judiciary on Wednesday, Sept. 28, during which Moore testified to keep his job.

During Moore’s Sept. 28 trial, Moore’s supporters cheered the embattled chief judge for his stand against the “homosexual agenda” and his refusal to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision that effectively legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

“These are sick, sick laws,” said one of Moore’s supporters in the crowd during the JIC’s closing remarks delivered by Ashby Pate. They continued to jeer throughout his closing argument, and through John Carroll’s, another of the JIC’s attorneys.

Moore said he was not guilty of the charges against him.

“I would never tell them what to do, except advise them that they were under the Alabama order on Feb. 8, that they were under Alabama law and not subject to the federal judge’s order,” Moore said during his testimony. “In that administrative order, I wasn’t telling them to do anything.”

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A majority of the court, the ruling said, favored removing Moore from the bench completely. However, the nine members of the court needed to reach a unanimous decision to remove him from the panel. That didn’t happen.

Staver, Moore’s lead attorney, said the verdict was lawless and politically motivated.

“To suspend Chief Justice Moore for the rest of his term is the same as removal,” Staver said. “The COJ lacked the unanimous votes to remove the Chief, so the majority instead chose to ignore the law and the rules.”

Staver is also the founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel, a conservative religious freedom organization that is also denoted as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Liberty Counsel represented Moore, and the SPLC submitted the complaint to the JIC.

Moore isn’t Staver’s most high-profile client, either. He represented Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis when she defied the federal courts there by refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

This will be Moore’s last term on the Supreme Court regardless. The Alabama Constitution does not allow anyone over 70 years old to seek reelection for the state’s highest court. There is no age limit for other constitutional officers, such as governor or attorney general.

And this isn’t the first time Moore lost his job on the court. In 2003, he was completely removed from office by the same court for defying a federal court order to remove a two-ton granite monument of the Ten Commandments from the state’s judicial center.

He was reelected in 2012 for a six-year term, which will expire in 2019.

The SPLC also brought the 2003 complaint against Moore.

“The Court of the Judiciary has done the citizens of Alabama a great service by suspending Roy Moore from the bench,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “He disgraced his office and undermined the integrity of the judiciary by putting his personal religious beliefs above his sworn duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

“Moore was elected to be a judge, not a preacher. It’s something that he never seemed to understand. The people of Alabama who cherish the rule of law are not going to miss the Ayatollah of Alabama.”

Moore was found guilty of violating the first, second and third canons of the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics. Attorneys for the Judicial Inquiry Commission, the acting prosecutors in the case, said Moore urged the state’s 68 probate judges to ignore federal law.

“(Moore) failed to respect and comply with the law and failed to conduct himself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary,” the verdict reads.

The court said that Moore’s decision to defy the federal judiciary for a second time played a principal role in his suspension today.

“The fact also remains that this is the second time Chief Justice Moore has caused himself to be brought before this court for taking actions grossly inconsistent with his duties as chief justice and in violation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics,” it read. “The result in both instances has been a lengthy, costly proceeding for this court ... and, most unfortunately, the taxpayers of this State.”

Moore’s attorney, Mat Staver, said Moore was simply offering a status update in his Jan. 6 administrative order.

“It’s very clear from his testimony and from all of the evidence that we presented … that the administrative order did not direct any probate judge to disobey any federal court order,” Staver said. “It was merely a status report.”

But according to the Liberty Counsel’s own website, Moore’s Jan. 6 administrative order did exactly what the JIC alleged: It “ordered” Alabama’s 68 probate judges that they “must uphold the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.” 

“Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment,” Moore wrote in his order.

They changed their tune during the trial, arguing Moore never told the judges what to do.

Staver said the evidence and arguments presented Wednesday showed Moore — who has been suspended since the complaint was filed in early June — should be reinstated immediately.

“He did nothing wrong,” Staver said. “The JIC presented no live testimony or affidavits. The charges should be dismissed. Today’s decision by the COJ to suspend the Chief for the rest of his term throws the rule of law out the window. This system must be changed.”

Staver said  a new panel of judges will need to convene to hear Moore’s appeal.

“We will continue the fight for justice to prevail in this case,” Staver said.

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