Motion to dismiss denied; AL's suspended chief justice will go to trial

Motion to dismiss denied; AL's suspended chief justice will go to trial
Moore supporters and critics rallied outside the judicial building during Moore's hearing. (Source: WBRC photo)
Moore supporters and critics rallied outside the judicial building during Moore's hearing. (Source: WBRC photo)
Moore and his attorney address a crowd outside the judicial building after the hearing. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Moore and his attorney address a crowd outside the judicial building after the hearing. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
The Court of the Judiciary order denying Moore's motion to dismiss. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
The Court of the Judiciary order denying Moore's motion to dismiss. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A motion to dismiss an ethics complaint against suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has been denied by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. A hearing was held Monday afternoon in which the court heard arguments from Moore's attorney, as well as from the state's Judicial Inquiry Committee, regarding Moore's future on the bench.

Both sides stated that they did not need more time and were ready for an immediate decision. Since Moore's motion to dismiss was denied. A trial date has been set for Sept. 28.

Moore could be removed from his seat on the state's high court, a position from which he was also removed in 2003, if the Court of the Judiciary finds he violated ethics laws regarding a federal order making gay marriage the law of the land. Moore has denied any wrongdoing.

The hearing got underway around 1:30 p.m. with both Moore supporters and critics rallying outside the state judicial building. Moore was also met with a standing ovation inside the packed courtroom just prior to the proceedings.

Moore's attorney, Liberty Council head Mat Staver, was first to address the court, stating that there was no need for a trial and that a decision needs to be made today because there are no facts in dispute. Staver offered Moore as being ready to answer any of the court's questions.

Staver told the court that Moore did not advise probate judges to go against a federal judge's order, the heart of the complaint by the JIC.

Staver also said the JIC lacks jurisdiction in the case. He stated that there must be facts to support the JIC's charges against Moore, and that the JIC's burden of proof is high. He said that JIC is wrong on both the law and the facts.

Moore's attorney said his client was careful not to step outside the law, noting that the Alabama Supreme Court did not give any guidance to state probate judges in the days and months after the federal ruling on gay marriage, and that the probate judges were "flapping in the wind" without direction from the state's highest court on how they should proceed.

Stave stated that Moore's order did not provide any guidance on the federal court ruling, that it only said probate judges must wait.

John Carroll, a former dean of the Samford Law School, who was appointed to try the case for the JIC, began by stating that judges are to use common sense, and that Moore's order was not common sense. He said the case is not about same-sex marriage, rather about the repeated refusal of Judge Moore to obey injunctions of federal court judges.

Carroll cited a letter from Justice Moore to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley shortly after federal judge Callie Granade's order ordering probate judges to issues same-sex marriage licenses. The later tells the governor the order is wrong and that they must oppose tyranny of the courts. Carroll also noted a memo from Moore to Alabama justices seeking to have them issue a ruling in the Alabama Policy Institute case even though he'd recused himself from the case, and said Moore also jumped back into the case challenging the federal court ruling regarding same-sex marriage.

"We can't allow Moore to pretend himself out of these charges," Carroll stated, explaining that Moore's order directly violated federal judge Granade's order. "The Chief Justice is the highest officer in our state. He has used his office to further his own personal agenda."

Staver disagreed, stating that the counts against Moore lacked clear and concise evidence.

Both sides' attorneys agreed the trial would take no longer than a day, though there is no word on how quickly the court will determine the verdict.

The hearing ended approximately an hour after it started. The court ruled on Moore's motion to dismiss several hours later.

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