Court upholds Moore’s ouster

Published 12:51 am Thursday, April 20, 2017

Local probate judge has no plans to sell marriage licenses

Ten days after the head of the Alabama’s executive branch of government resigned, a special Supreme Court upheld the removal of the head of the state’s judicial branch.

The special Supreme Court said in a unanimous 66-page opinion that it found nothing to justify overturning the sentence of Roy Moore, who was suspended from office for the remainder of his term by the Court of the Judiciary last September.

The Court of the Judiciary was acting on an ethics complaint filed against Moore after he sent an order to the state’s probate judges telling them they had a “ministerial duty” to not issue marriage license to same-sex couples. Moore’s order was in conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down state bans on same-sex marriage.

Moore appealed his case, and a special court was appointed from a pool of retired judges.

Most probate judges ignored Moore’s order, but in Covington County, then-Probate Judge Ben Bowden stopped selling all marriage licenses. Bowden was later elected circuit judge, and Gov. Robert Bentley appointed Stacey Brooks to complete his terms. Brooks, who was the guest speaker at Wednesday’s Lions Club meeting, was asked if she planned to resume the sales of marriage licenses. Brooks said that the policy was in place when she took office and she did not plan to change it.

State law says that probate judges may sell licenses, but it does not require them to do so. At present, there is proposed legislation to eliminate marriage licenses, and simply require probate judges to record marriages.

Moore in a press conference after the decision called the prosecution “politically” motivated and declared that he remains Chief Justice despite the suspension regarding an administrative order against the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Moore can’t appeal the ruling to the federal courts because there are no federal issues. “This is it,” he said. He is expected to be a candidate in the special election for the U.S. Senate seat vacated when Jeff Sessions became U.S. attorney general. That election is set for later this year.

The court’s upholding of Moore’s ouster as head of the judicial branch of state government followed the resignation last week of Gov. Robert Bentley, who also pled guilty to two misdemeanor charges related to campaign finance. Last year, a leader of the legislative branch, then-Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, was removed from office after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges in June.