MONTGOMERY, Ala. (ABP) — Attorneys for Alabama's former chief justice have asked for his reinstatement by claiming Roy Moore did not commit an ethical violation when he defied a federal court's order last year.
Moore's attorneys said he was bound by his oath of office not to follow the federal court's order. “There comes a time when an order is so morally unjust that you shouldn't follow it,” Moore attorney Phillip Jauregui said, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. “Chief Justice Moore didn't take an oath to support a regime of judges, he took an oath to uphold the Constitution.”
In August, Moore refused to comply with a federal judge's order to remove a two-ton granite monument to the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the state's judicial headquarters building. Moore had overseen the monument's installation in the building's rotunda in 2001.
Two federal courts ruled that the monument was a violation of the First Amendment's ban on government establishment of religion. After the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Moore's appeal, District Judge Myron Thompson ordered the monument removed.
Moore's colleagues on the Alabama Supreme Court then suspended him from office and allowed workers to move the monument to a non-public area of the building. On Nov. 13 the state's Court of the Judiciary removed Moore from office permanently. They ruled unanimously that he had violated judicial ethics by defying the order.
Moore argued that complying with the order would have violated his oath of office. That oath to uphold the Alabama and federal Constitutions required him to “acknowledge God,” he said.
Alabama law allowed Moore to appeal his removal to the state Supreme Court. His former colleagues recused themselves from the case, allowing the Alabama Gov. Bob Riley to appoint a special judicial panel to preside over Moore's appeal. The panel, made up of seven retired judges from around the state, heard oral arguments in Moore's case Feb. 25.
Alabama Assistant Attorney General Charles Campbell told the court that Moore's case was cut and dried. “This case is about three things: a judge, a court order and a judge's decision to intentionally violate the law,” the Advertiser quoted him as saying.
The justices reportedly peppered Jauregui, Moore's attorney, with questions during his argument, but did not question Campbell.
The court has not set a deadline for issuing its ruling on Moore's appeal. Moore has said he would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if, as is expected, the Alabama court rules against him.