Roy Moore, the Alabama Supreme Court’s chief justice, has been suspended for the remainder of his term as punishment for instructing state judges to flout federal orders legalizing same-sex marriage, a state court ruled Friday.
Alabama’s Court of the Judiciary, which was responsible for handling the ethics charges against Moore, stopped short of removing him from the bench entirely. But suspending Moore for the remainder of his term, which lasts through the end of 2018, effectively accomplishes the same thing because it prevents him from presiding over cases and denies him pay for that period. Moore’s removal required unanimity from the Court of the Judiciary’s members.
The decision came after a brief trial on Wednesday.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group that first filed ethics complaints against Moore for his January administrative ruling encouraging state probate judges to defy federal orders, celebrated the judgment on Friday.
“The Court of the Judiciary has done a tremendous service to the people of Alabama by stripping him of his judicial power,” SPLC President Richard Cohen said. “He clearly did not understand the difference between being a judge and being a preacher.”
“Good riddance to the Ayatollah of Alabama,” Cohen added.
Moore’s attorney, Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel firm, argued that removing Moore from the bench in all but name violates the court’s own rule requiring unanimity for removal.
“It is a travesty of an opinion,” Staver told The Huffington Post, adding that he plans to submit an appeal to the state Supreme Court on Friday.
Due to the conflict of interest involved in trying a colleague, the justices will almost certainly convene a special panel of judges to hear the appeal.
Moore has built a career on religious provocations. He was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court in 2003 for defying a federal order to remove a stone monument of the Ten Commandments from the Supreme Court’s rotunda. Moore had sneaked the monument into the building overnight in 2001.
That punishment did not prove to be a political setback for Moore, as he was re-elected as chief justice in 2012.
Moore has twice sought the GOP nomination for Alabama governor. Some have speculated that he is trying to leverage his conservative martyrdom in yet another gubernatorial run, and a poll commissioned by a conservative group in August showed Moore leading other contenders.