Alabama Chief Justice Fights for His Job, Political Career

By | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

( - The man who fought the federal government over a public Ten Commandments monument and lost is now fighting to keep his judicial office and save his political career.

Roy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, will soon appear before the state's Court of the Judiciary, which decides cases of alleged judicial misconduct. Moore is charged with violating the Judicial Canon of Ethics by flouting U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson's order to remove the Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building.

Alabama's Judicial Inquiry Commission suspended Moore and referred complaints against him related to the Ten Commandments controversy to the Court of the Judiciary on Aug. 22. Moore has 30 days from that date to respond to the charges, and the court will then set a trial date, giving Moore at least 30 days' notice.

The court may reprimand, suspend or remove Moore. But if history is any indication, removal is unlikely. According to the Birmingham News, the panel has removed only three judges since its creation in 1973.

The hearing will be more similar to a civil case, in which a preponderance of the evidence is necessary for a conviction, than to a criminal case, in which guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Moore's removal would not necessarily be the end of his political career, but a recent Birmingham News poll showed that only 40 percent of Alabamians agreed with Moore's decision to ignore federal court orders to remove the monument.

Political scientist Randolph Horn of Samford University in Birmingham told that while Moore's clash with the federal judiciary boosted his name recognition, it also upset many Alabama voters.

"It was a double-edged sword, really," Horn explained. "On the one hand, his name recognition is an asset if he were to run for other offices, but on the other, the dissatisfaction with his behavior as chief justice would likely be a strike against him."

Horn reported rumors that Moore might challenge either of two prominent Republican politicians in Alabama, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby next year or Gov. Bob Riley in 2006. As previously reported, Riley could face a conservative challenger in the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary because of his plan to raise taxes, which was rejected in a voter referendum.

"There are a lot of rumors that [Moore] has some interest in running for other offices," Horn said. "In interviews he's done, he's been coy about this issue... He is playing his cards close to his chest."

Horn said that because the gubernatorial election is three years away, Moore, like Riley, would have a chance to overcome any negative publicity and win the trust of Alabama voters.

Referring to Moore's decision to defy federal court orders, Horn said: "Maybe in the short run, he's done some damage to his career. But I don't know that that damage is permanent. I imagine he either could use his suspension or sort of outsider-status as a marketing instrument for his career. Or he might resume his place at the head of the state bench and also in that role continue to advance his career."

Another possibility for Moore is an appointment to a federal judgeship. But for Moore to take a seat on the federal bench, he would have to be nominated by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Horn considers it doubtful that Moore would be confirmed.

See Earlier Stories:
Rejected Tax Hike Leaves Alabama Governor Vulnerable
(Sept. 12, 2003)
Defenders of Ten Commandments Warn Nation of Future at Stake (Aug. 28, 2003)

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