- Associated Press - Friday, May 27, 2016

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore filed a federal lawsuit Friday against the state agency that leveled ethics charges against him, claiming the state law that led to his removal from the bench is unconstitutional.

The suit against the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission asks a court to order Moore’s immediate reinstatement as head of Alabama’s court system.

The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of a provision in state law that mandates the automatic suspension of state judges once ethics charges are filed.

Given the power to suspend judges, the suit claims, the commission “can wield its significant power over Alabama’s elected judges - including the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court - based upon trivialities, viewpoint-based objections, differences in legal interpretation, political motivations or, even worse, to protect itself from investigation of violations of its own rules.”

“We are asking the federal court to strike down the automatic removal provision in the Alabama State Constitution and we are asking that Chief Justice Moore be immediately reinstated,” said Mat Staver, an attorney for Moore.

An attorney for the Judicial Inquiry Commission did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Montgomery.

Staver said Moore would soon file other documents seeking dismissal of the ethics charges.

The commission is a state agency that investigates complaints against judges. It filed a complaint earlier this month accusing Moore of willfully failing to respect the authority of federal court decisions that cleared the way for gay marriage. The Alabama Court of the Judiciary, composed of judges and lawyers, will hear the case.

Moore, a conservative Christian Republican, opposes same-sex marriage on the basis of faith and the law. In January he issued an administrative order to state probate judges that said state laws against gay marriage remained in place months after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized gay marriage nationwide.

Moore was previously removed as chief justice in 2003 over his refusal to follow a federal judge’s order requiring the removal of a Ten Commandments monument that Moore placed in the rotunda of the state’s main judicial building.

Voters overwhelmingly returned Moore to the post in 2012.

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