Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore filed notice today he will appeal his removal from office.
Roy Moore (Photo: WSFA.com)
Moore, who was ousted Nov. 13 for defiance of a federal judge’s order to remove a 10 Commandments monument, also filed a motion with the Alabama Supreme Court asking that acting Chief Justice Gorman Houston not preside over the appeal.
Moore wants Houston to recuse himself or be ordered by the court to step down because of public statements the justice has made about the case. Also, Moore argues Houston has a personal interest in rejecting the appeal, because it allows the acting chief justice to stay in office longer.
The motion says, “Justice Houston has made numerous comments and has taken actions indicating that his impartiality may reasonably be questioned or that he has a personal bias or prejudice toward Chief Justice Moore.”
Alabama’s nine-member Court of the Judiciary voted unanimously to oust Moore for defiance of U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson’s order to remove the 5,300 pound granite monument he installed in the rotunda of the state courthouse two years ago. If the ruling stands, Gov. Bob Riley will appoint a new chief justice.
The motion said Houston inappropriately participated in a dramatic presentation at a Nov. 5 banquet at the University of South Alabama. The drama characterized Houston and other justices “as modern day Sir Thomas Mores,” referring to the English official under King Henry VIII who was beheaded for refusing to approve the king’s divorce.
“Such statements are entirely inappropriate under the circumstances before the court and raise an appearance of impropriety requiring Justice Houston’s recusal,” the motions say.
Moore has been accused of not abiding by the rule of law for his unwillingness to comply with the order. But he will argue it is Thompson who flouted the law when he ruled the memorial violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which says Congress shall make no law establishing a religion.
Moore argues the monument has nothing to do with Congress making a law and points out the Alabama state Constitution requires an acknowledgement of God.
“The rule of law is not Judge Thompson’s order, but what the law says,” he told WND in an interview last week. “There are too many people in our country who don’t recognize that the rule of law is not whatever a judge says. If that were true, judges in Hitler’s Germany would have been correct ordering people to die.”
One of the points Moore’s attorneys will emphasize is Thompson’s unwillingness to define what religion means.
In his 94-page opinion, Thompson said Moore’s “definition of religion proves, if anything, that it is unwise, and even dangerous, to put forth, as a matter of law, one definition of religion under the First Amendment.”
Moore commented: “This judge said, in his own opinion, the court does not have the expertise to define the word religion. … Now when you do that, you can’t interpret law.”
Thompson, he contended, “didn’t follow the law, he followed his own feelings, and therefore, when they say I violated the rule of law by not following his orders, then it does matter how he interprets the statute.”
Moore further maintains the code of ethics by which he was prosecuted is based on an acknowledgment of God.
“That was shown during the trial,” he said. “But today they say to acknowledge God is a violation of that code of ethics if a judge tells you to stop and you don’t obey that order.”
The Nov. 13 judgment [Pdf file requires Adobe Reader] said the panel “has found that Chief Justice Moore not only willfully and publicly defied the orders of a United States district court, but upon direct questioning by the court, he also gave the court no assurances that he would follow that order or any similar order in the future.
“In fact,” the judgment continued, “he affirmed his earlier statements in which he said he would do the same. Under these circumstances, there is no penalty short of removal from office that would resolve this issue.”
After the decision, Moore stated, “It’s about whether or not we can acknowledge God as the source of our law and our liberty. That’s all I’ve done. I’ve been found guilty.”
Roy Moore in court Nov. 13. (Sketch provided to WND by H.L. Chappelear)
Some critics of Moore who agree with his position on the First Amendment, argue his decision two year ago to set up a Ten Commandments monument in the state court building is not the only way to acknowledge God and accuse him of grandstanding.
He insists he is acting on principle.
“It’s odd to be accused of grandstanding and political purposes when I’m excluded from office, lose my retirement and everything else,” he said. “That doesn’t make sense.”
Moore did not rule out political office, however, saying if not restored as chief justice, “I’ll make plans to get a job, whether it be practicing law, speaking, teaching the First Amendment, or running for public office. I haven’t made any decision yet.”
He acknowledged his case has been “more about restoring the acknowledgement of God than the Ten Commandments monument,” but downplayed the notion he is the leader of a growing movement.
“That’s for others to assess,” he said. “I just see myself as a person who is trying to do my job and lost it.”
He already has responded to a number of invitations across the country, nevertheless, speaking to many who say his battle has touched a chord.
“I see a groundswell of change coming into our country – an awakening to the true meaning of the Constitution,” he said.
On Nov. 17, Moore announced he is proposing federal legislation to reassert the power he insists Congress already has to limit the jurisdiction of federal courts.
He made a veiled reference to his legislative move immediately after he was removed from office, promising he would make an announcement that “could alter the course of this country.”
“It entails a restriction of the jurisdiction of the courts under Article III, according to the Constitution, from matters with which they’re not supposed to be involved anyway,” he explained.
“In other words,” he continued, “when courts have usurped jurisdiction of the Constitution, of the meaning of the First Amendment, when they’ve intruded powers where they don’t have a right to be, then the Congress has a right, under the Constitution to restrict the appellate jurisdiction of the United States Supreme Court and the federal district courts, which Congress has created.”
The legislation will address that issue he said, along with the “right of the states to be free to acknowledge God.”