Alabama Scene

It’s me again all you folks

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com.

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com.

Just like the fictional stalker in Ray Stevens’ comedy hit song “It’s me again Margaret,” Alabamians woke up last Wednesday to lyrics of a stalker of the political variety… Roy Moore. “It’s me again all you folks, I’m back.”

And back he is, poised to regain the office from which he was removed by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary in 2003. I will recite a brief history of the political route Judge Moore took to reach the position he is in today, followed by a comment.

After serving as an assistant prosecutor in Etowah County and running in unsuccessful campaigns as a Democrat for circuit judge in 1982 and district attorney in 1986, Moore returned to his private law practice in Gadsden, married his wife Kayla, switched his political affiliation to the GOP, and hung a wooden Ten Commandments plaque in his office that he had personally carved in 1980.

In 1992 a vacancy opened up on the circuit court bench in Etowah County. Moore’s name was floated by some of his friends in the legal community and he was appointed to fill the vacancy by Gov. Guy Hunt. “The impossible had happened!” Moore later wrote. “God had given me something that I had not been able to obtain through my own efforts.”When he took office, Moore brought that wooden Ten Commandments plaque with him and hung it on the courtroom wall behind the bench. Although Moore has said he didn’t intend to stir up a controversy, that was when the storm clouds opened up.

In 1999 several Christian organizations began working to draft Moore into the political contest for Chief Justice knowing that the incumbent, Perry O. Hooper Sr., couldn’t seek re-election because of his age. Moore, at first, was reluctant to make the race because he had no money and three other likely candidates, particularly Associate Justice Harold See, were well-financed.

Nevertheless, on Dec. 7, 1999, Moore announced from his Etowah County courtroom that he would enter the race with hope of returning “God to our public life and restore the moral foundation of our law.”

See was the heavy favorite to be the GOP nominee because of his support from the state business community and the party hierarchy, including Hooper. However, as Moore gained in state polling, See was forced to seek the help of Republican strategist Karl Rove. But even Rove couldn’t help. Moore then easily defeated Democratic contender Sharon Yates in November’s general election.

Why didn’t Democrats recruit a qualified candidate?

I am surprised some aspiring and qualified lawyer didn’t anticipate a Moore victory and qualify on the Democratic ticket. While I do not disparage the legal ability of Harry Lyon, the Pelham lawyer, perennial court candidate and the lone Democrat who signed up for the contest, he doesn’t stand a chance of winning.

So why didn’t the Democratic Party secure a qualified candidate to just sign up? He or she could have decided later on whether or not to run.

The New York Times has taken its usual stance against Judge Moore. I was actually irritated enough to write them an online comment last week. Here’s what I said:

“While there is great concern about Judge Roy Moore in many liberal circles, but for his bias on one or two issues, he is considered by most lawyers here in Alabama to be fair and impartial. So the liberals in New York can rest at ease because the State’s Canons of Judicial Ethics, those same rules that caused him to be removed from office in the past, will prevent him from sitting on any matter that might involve his bias. As a former court administrator and now the publisher of a weekly newspaper in Montgomery, I have watched Judge Moore for many years. He is not the Satan of Justice, as many outside Alabama might want to depict him.”

Frankly, I should have continued and closed with this line, “At least we know the bias of Judge Moore, something we don’t know about most judges.”

In the early 1970’s the judicial reform legislation spearheaded by the late Chief Justice Howell Heflin and others, provided for the procedures used in 2003 to remove Judge Moore from office. Heflin, however, was forced to drop the plan to also put before the voters a proposal to end judges from having to seek office by winning a popular election. That idea never made it to the drawing board because of the opposition of then Gov. George Wallace, who, by the way, did support the judicial reform plan once the merit selection plan for judges was discarded.