Justice Parker’s remarks sully the judiciary
Published 11:46 pm Thursday, October 22, 2015
Judges in Alabama swear to support the U.S. Constitution when they take office, but some choose to ignore that oath, claiming they need not recognize federal laws that don’t fit with their personal prejudices.
Take Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker, who spoke in an Oct. 6 radio interview about his erroneous belief the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down same-sex marriage bans doesn’t apply nationwide. And so not in Alabama.
That’s nonsense, but Parker is a right-wing ideologue straight out of the camp of state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, so the legal sophistry comes as no surprise.
Parker also appears to have no compunctions about breaching ethics laws that prohibit judges, who are supposed to maintain at least the veneer of impartiality, from making public comment on pending cases.
A case brought by conservative Alabama groups that oppose the June federal same-sex marriage ruling is currently pending before the state’s high court.
The groups have every right to seek legal review, however futilely. But Parker’s actions have sullied Alabama’s justice system and landed him where he belongs: In legal hot water along with Moore.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint against Parker with the Judicial Inquiry Commission last week, citing both his lack of restraint in airing his views and his purported defiance of established federal law.
The SPLC filed a similar complaint against Moore in January over public remarks he made opposing same-sex marriage and propping up state officials — such as probate judges who issue marriage licenses — who don’t want to comply with their sworn duties.
As those complaints work their way through the judicial commission, let’s remember some history.
In his first term as chief justice, Moore brought disgrace on Alabama by refusing to obey federal court orders to remove a granite monument of the Ten Commandments he’d had installed in the state Judicial Building.
He was convicted in 2003 of violating Alabama’s Canons of Judicial Ethics and removed from his post. Voters in 2012 unwisely returned him to office, where he continues to use the bench as a platform for his religious beliefs, undermining the rule of law.
The Judicial Inquiry Commission should consider the SPLC complaints with the utmost gravity and hand down the sternest sanctions available to Moore and Parker.
We hope that includes trials before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary that could lead to their ouster.
That’s needed to restore public trust that no one – not even two of the highest placed judicial officials in the state — is above the law.