Ten Commandments Legal Tactic Means Moore Off Bench Indefinitely

Published: Sep. 19, 2003 at 2:13 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2003 at 1:39 AM CDT
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It will be a while before anyone sees Chief Justice Roy Moore back at the Alabama Supreme Court, possibly as long as a year.

Moore's attorneys have filed a request to delay his appearance before the State Court of the Judiciary. That's the court that oversees judges, the same court that could remove him from the bench. It's all tied to Moore's appeal of the ten commandments case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Roy Moore will have plenty of time to campaign for the Ten Commandments. His attorneys guaranteed that today, when they filed this motion. How long?

Lawyer Terry Butts says, "It's possible it could be a 90 day time frame or better."

The request asks the state court to wait for trial until after Moore files his Ten Commandments appeal the U.S. Supreme Court. The logic? If the high court says the display is constitutional, Moore can't be removed for defying a court order.

The chief justice will file his appeal September 29th. His opponents will have 30 days to file their side. Then, the justices can take as much time as they want before deciding anything.

When asked if that could take a long time, Butts replied, "It could well be."

If the high court rejects the appeal, Moore could go on state trial very quickly - within a couple of months. But if the high court takes the case, he'll wait even longer. The court will accept written briefs from both sides, and there will probably be dozens of 'friends of the court' briefs filed, too. The court will schedule oral arguments, possibly in the next term beginning October 2004. And then, there's no deadline for a decision.

Butts says this is a critical moment in Alabama history. "In his situation, if he gets removed from office," Butts explained, "the only thing he can do at that point is to appeal, or if he loses that appeal, the come back and run again and ask the people to put him back in office."

But for now, it appears all of Moore's eggs are in one basket residing in Washington, D.C. There's no guarantee the state court will accept Moore's request to delay his hearing. But his attorneys say they're confident they will get their wish.

Reporter: Chris Holmes