'Ten Commandments judge' seeks top Ala. post again
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The former top Alabama judge known for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse said Tuesday that he's seeking to regain his old job as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.
Eight years after Roy Moore was removed from the post because of the monument dispute, he announced that he would run for the position again at a news conference on the steps of the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery. The 64-year-old Republican addressed the dispute in his remarks to the media and a couple dozen supporters.
"I have no plans to move the monument to Montgomery," he said, but added that he will continue to acknowledge God.
Current Chief Justice Chuck Malone and Charlie Graddick, a former attorney general who's now a circuit judge in Mobile, are already running in the Republican primary on March 13. No Democrat has announced.
Moore has said that lots of people have encouraged him to enter the Republican primary. He said he does not believe getting in the race behind the other two GOP candidates will hurt him, adding that he is well-known and voters know his judicial philosophy is conservative.
"There is no question that I know this job," Moore said during Tuesday's announcement. "And I believe the people of Alabama know exactly what I stand for."
Moore pointed to his previous experience as chief justice, including keeping the courts open despite what he said were significant budget cuts. He also said the court under his leadership effectively outlawed gambling machines in Alabama, ended an occupational tax in Montgomery County, and stopped a long-running school equity funding lawsuit.
Moore became a judge in 1992 when Republican Gov. Guy Hunt appointed him to a vacant circuit judgeship in Gadsden. He attracted national attention in a legal battle with the American Civil Liberties Union over his practice of opening court sessions with prayer and displaying a homemade plaque of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom.
After being elected chief justice in 2000, he had a 5,280-pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments installed in the lobby of the state judicial building in Montgomery. That set off more legal battles, which he lost. A trial court for judges removed him in 2003 over his refusal to abide by a federal judge's order to remove the display.
The monument currently sits at a church and school in Gadsden.
Moore said Tuesday that the monument fight was never about a piece of granite.
"It was never about the Ten Commandments," he said. "It was about the one who gave the Ten Commandments."
Since getting kicked out as chief justice, Moore has made two runs for governor. He lost the 2006 Republican primary to incumbent Bob Riley and finished fourth in the GOP primary 2010.
Moore said Tuesday that he is looking forward to yet another statewide campaign.
"Win or lose, you make a difference when you talk about the issues," he said.
In the spring, he formed an exploratory committee to consider a Republican run for president, but dropped it. Moore has said he drew good crowds during speaking engagements in Iowa, the first caucus state, and South Carolina, an early primary state, but couldn't generate the money needed to seriously consider a campaign.