Roy Moore, the infamous “Ten Commandments” theocrat, is serving a second stint as Alabama’s chief justice. Moore was first elected to that position in 2000, but was removed after refusing to move a Ten Commandments monument he had installed at the entrance to the courthouse. Carved into a five ton boulder. In a July 2003 ruling, the appeals court compared Moore’s actions to the
“position taken by those southern governors who attempted to defy federal court orders during an earlier era,” citing the actions of former governors Ross Barnett of Mississippi and George C. Wallace of Alabama in trying to block campus integration and protest marches during the height of the civil rights movement.
“Any notion of high government officials being above the law did not save those governors from having to obey federal court orders, and it will not save this chief justice from having to comply with the court order in this case,” the appeals court wrote.
In November 2003, the state ethics panel unanimously voted to remove Moore from the bench. He was reelected in 2012, narrowly defeating a candidate who didn’t join the race until August after Democrats disqualified their original candidate. (What was that old saying?–you can’t beat something with nothing.) When it became apparent that he’d won, he told supporters
“Go home with the knowledge that we are going to stand for the acknowledgment of God.”
Now, Moore has told the state’s probate judges–who evidently issue marriage licenses in Alabama– to ignore a federal judge’s ruling that same-sex marriages could proceed, and a majority of them have been complying.
Interestingly, Alabama does not require probate judges to have any sort of legal education. It’s also one of thirteen states where probate judges are elected in partisan primaries and general elections.
The U.S. Constitution made federal judges independent precisely in order to avoid this sort of assault on the rule of law. Congress and the Executive Branch are supposed to answer to the voters; courts of law are supposed to answer to the Constitution.
In best-case scenarios, judicial elections give rise to the appearance of impropriety– did campaign contributions influence the administration of justice? In the worst-case scenarios, judicial elections give you a Roy Moore.