One thing that most people don’t understand because they have spent little or no time in actual courts in the the United States, is that judges are often incredibly ignorant and often even more bigoted. Alabama Chief Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore is a perfect example of this. He is the man who was thrown off the bench in 2004 because he put a two ton granite Ten Commandments statue in the state judicial building. The “fine” people of Alabama voted him back onto the bench in 2012. And now he is back defying a federal court ruling allowing same-sex marriage in Alabama. All you really need to know about Moore is that he’s a typical judge in that he thinks he’s above the law.
He’s getting major push-back, however. Yesterday morning, he was being interviewed by Chris Wallace who was friendly enough — but clearly not too pleased that this freak of a judge is making a mockery of “reasonable” conservatism. He said, “A state ethics panel said that you had to be removed from office because you had put yourself above the law. Are you doing the same thing now, sir?” Of course, Moore doesn’t think he was wrong in the first place, so obviously he doesn’t think so now. As Walt would say in Breaking Bad, “I am the one who knocks.”
What was especially funny in the interview is how Moore tries to take the high ground. This is typical of conservatives everywhere. They just love to hearken back to slavery — as though they would have been anything but slavery apologists if they had lived at that time. Moore said, “I could recuse or dissent as a justice from Delaware did in the Dred Scott case in 1857. They ruled black people were property. Should a court today base such a ruling that is contradictory to the Constitution…?”
There are a couple of factual matters that Moore got wrong. First, slavery was hardly unconstitutional in 1857. Neither of the two justices who dissented (John McLean and Benjamin Curtis) were from Delaware. And they dissented on procedural grounds — not out of any moral reasoning against the injustice of slavery. But there is a much bigger issue here.
Moore may be talking about recusing and dissenting now. But his actions have not been done within the judicial system. The day before a federal court ruling was to take effect, Moore ordered that probate judges disregard the federal courts. So unlike McLean and Curtis, Moore is not working inside the legal system and losing. He is claiming that he knows what the law should be and that just because other judges who hold positions above him have found otherwise, he can just ignore that.
This is the thinking of a despot. And it is interesting to hear him talk circles around the issues that he’s raised. For example, his Ten Commandments statue was constitutional because he has decided that the First Amendment gave him the right to do that. So again and again we hear from Moore that he follows the law but only to the extent that he gets to say what the law means. Remember: this is a state chief supreme court justice, and he thinks the law doesn’t apply to him.
What is sad is that if he pushes this matter (I don’t think he will in this case), and he gets thrown off the bench, the people of Alabama will just re-elect him. American justice is screwed up. But people like Roy Moore make it far more dangerous. He should not be allowed any kind of power at all because he abuses whatever power he has. He’s a despot in a robe. And his position represents the darkest aspect of democracy.