A special Supreme Court has upheld the suspension of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was permanently suspended last year by another court for violating judicial ethics.
Moore's attorneys argued in written briefs to the special Supreme Court that the Court of the Judiciary — a nine-member judicial oversight panel that handles complaints against judges in the state — overstepped its authority in permanently suspending the chief justice.
The special court did not side with Moore.
"Because we have previously determined that the charges were proven by clear and convincing evidence and there is no indication that the sanction imposed was plainly and palpably wrong, manifestly unjust, or without supporting evidence, we shall not disturb the sanction imposed," the special Supreme Court wrote in their opinion.
Last month, Moore's attorneys filed a motion with the court requesting the cancellation of oral arguments. Resultantly, no public court hearings were held in the case.
Under Alabama law, the Court of the Judiciary needed a unanimous vote to remove a judge from the bench when they are weighing the punishment for judges who they have decided violated the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics.
In Moore's case, the Court of the Judiciary skirted the requirement for a unanimous vote to remove by using a simple-majority vote to impose a near-permanent suspension of two years and two months. The suspension ends when Moore's term is up in 2019.
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When Moore's term ends in 2019, he will be too old to run for reelection under Alabama law, which limits the age of judges to 70 years. If his suspension is upheld, his judicial career will be over.
Moore argued that his suspension was four times longer than any other suspension in Alabama since the rules of the Court of the Judiciary were revised in 2001.
"Even though both sanctions are similarly severe, because the Court of the Judiciary was unanimous in its imposition of such a serious sanction, we cannot conclude that the Court of the Judiciary violated Rule 16 of the Rules of Procedure of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary," the special court wrote.
With his suspension, Moore has kept his title, but he lost his authority, his office and his employees.
The Court of the Judiciary, which heard the case, said in its ruling that Moore violated the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics by disregarding federal law in a January 2016 administrative order to the state’s 67 probate judges.
Moore became famous first in 2003 for refusing to comply with a federal court order to remove a 2-ton Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building. He was removed completely from his post by a unanimous verdict.
In his Jan. 6 order, Moore said the state’s probate judges had a “ministerial duty” to follow the state’s same-sex marriage ban, not the federal judiciary’s order in Obergefell v. Hodges that effectively legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
Moore’s attorneys said the Jan. 6 administrative order was simply a “status update” on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell, an Alabama Supreme Court order in 2014 concerning same-sex marriage and U.S. District Judge Callie Granade’s order that ruled the state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.
It was meant to clarify the conflicting orders, Moore’s attorneys said.
This story is developing and will be updated.
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