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Alabama Supreme Court Justice seeks to hold off suspension with federal lawsuit

Alabama Supreme Court
Alabama Supreme Court

MONTGOMERY – Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker has filed a federal lawsuit against the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission to block his potential suspension from the bench.

The JIC has been investigating Justice Parker on the basis that comments he made on gay marriage violated judicial canons of ethics. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed complaints in October that Parker inappropriately commented on the pending same-sex marriage ruling and voiced his personal opinions on the issue on a conservative radio talk show, which they believe violated Judicial Canons 1, 2A, and 3A(6).

“These provisions (of law) are being used by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and its allies on the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) in an attempt to intimidate, silence, and punish Justice Parker for his originalist judicial philosophy and protected speech,” Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, who represents Parker, said in a statement.

Although the JIC has not yet filed any charges against Parker, his lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the Canons of Judicial Ethics and the state law that automatically suspends a judge when JIC files charges. Judges who are suspended can return to their office depending on the outcome of a trial in front of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary

The lawsuit also claims Parker’s free speech rights have been infringed upon and have negatively affected his re-election campaign. “That harm is continuing and, in fact, increasing as the election approaches and forces him to engage in self-censorship,” the lawsuit states.

Parker’s lawsuit follows one filed by Chief Justice Roy Moore after the JIC suspended him in May for “flagrantly disregard(ing) and abus(ing) his authority” with respect to the issue of same sex marriage. Moore’s lawsuit seeks to make the suspension provision unconstitutional. The Southern Poverty Law Center was also involved in filing charges against Moore.

After a federal court struck down Alabama’s gay marriage ban, Moore instructed probate judges around the state to ignore the court’s order and continue upholding the Alabama Constitution, which affirms the traditional definition of marriage. Most probate judges around the state are now issuing same sex marriage licenses, while a handful have opted to stop issuing marriage licenses all together, rather than violate their conscience.

(h/t AL.com)