- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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May 18

The Dothan Eagle on Gov. Robert Bentley:

On Monday, the New York Times published a 1,300 word epistle summing up the current state of Alabama’s corrupt government: a governor embattled by an embarrassing sex scandal and impeachment attempts and under investigation for misuse of state resources; a House Speaker indicted on a raft of corruption charges pertaining to his office; and a chief justice suspended and facing trial before the Court of the Judiciary for ordering probate judges to defy a U.S. Supreme Court mandate.

Volumes could be written exploring how we got to the point that corruption could be so pervasive at the upper tier of our government. But the crux of the matter can be summed up in eight words: The voters - and the bureaucracy — are to blame.

Gov. Robert Bentley’s troubles began long before voters went to the polls, and speculation about the nature of his relationship with his “senior advisor,” Rebekah Caldwell Mason, was openly discussed in Montgomery. Yet the voters gave him a second term.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard was indicted on 23 corruption charges in October 2014 after a lengthy grand jury investigation. Regardless, Lee County voters returned him to the State House for another term a few weeks later, and House members gave him another term in the Speaker’s seat. His trial begins next week in Opelika.

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore was ousted by the Court of the Judiciary during his first term as the state’s top judicial official after he defied a federal order to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from the state judiciary building. Voters returned Moore to that office in 2013, but he was suspended by the Judicial Inquiry Commission recently, and is awaiting trial on charges that he directed state probate judges to follow Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage rather than the U.S. Supreme Court decision authorizing same-sex marriage.

Alabama has a wealth of intelligent, even brilliant, residents who rightly bristle at the shenanigans of elected leaders that embarrass us before the world.

But until we make better decisions about who will lead us, we will continue to risk embarrassment from the actions of elected officials who choose to color outside the lines.

Online:

https://www.dothaneagle.com/

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May 15

The Decatur Daily on state lawmakers and the U.S. Constitution:

The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1788, is neither ambiguous nor complex, but it is a brick wall against which Alabama politicians love to beat their heads.

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof … shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

The clause was not adopted casually. It was omitted from the Articles of Confederation, which were ratified by the 13 states in 1781, and the results were chaotic.

As James Madison explained in 1788, a constitution that failed to place supreme authority in the laws of the nation rather than the states “would have seen the authority of the whole society everywhere subordinate to the authority of the parts; it would have seen a monster, in which the head was under the direction of the members.”

Alabama officials were once again trying to create a monster last week.

Gov. Robert Bentley on Tuesday signed an abortion bill into law that prohibits any abortion clinic from being within 2,000 feet of public elementary and middle schools. The stated rationale for the law was not that students would stop by for an abortion during recess, but that anti-abortion protesters would be disruptive. At least in Huntsville, the protesters recognized the irony. They were as disruptive as possible to a nearby school to provide the bill with momentum during the legislative session.

The genesis of the law, as everyone in the state understands, has nothing to do with protecting school children. A few minutes with Google Maps made it clear to lawmakers that banning the clinics from locating within 2,000 feet of a public school would eliminate the state’s two main abortion providers.

The clash between morality, biology and individual liberty when it comes to abortion is horribly complex, but it’s an issue that must be resolved through the U.S. Constitution. And it has been, albeit in a way that disturbs many in this state. Working with other Americans, Alabamians can change that constitution. Or they can elect presidents who appoint more conservative Supreme Court justices. But the authority of Alabama lawmakers is limited by the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by federal judges, and it always has been.

Likewise, the authority of Roy Moore, the recently suspended chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, is limited by the U.S. Constitution. He chose to ignore that limitation in 2003 by defying a federal court order and refusing to remove a massive Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building, and he was booted from office as a result. This year he instructed probate judges to defy federal law regarding gay marriages, which resulted in his suspension and could once again result in his removal from office.

Under the Articles of Confederation, Alabama’s lawmakers and courts would have the authority they crave. But precisely because the Articles left too much power to the states, they were a relic of history by the time Alabama became a state in 1819. A main reason for the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, including the Supremacy Clause, was a hard-won recognition that the United States could not function unless national law trumped the laws of the individual states.

Instead of constantly banging their heads against a wall - and sticking their constituents with the legal bills - it’s time Alabama politicians accepted the limitations on their power.

Online:

https://www.decaturdaily.com/

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May 12

The Montgomery Advertiser on Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore should again be removed from office. That’s the only conclusion to be drawn from actions against Moore by the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission last week.

As the Montgomery Advertiser’s Brian Lyman reported, the JIC charged Moore with multiple violations of ethical rules, leading to his immediate suspension, though he’ll continue to draw his paycheck while this squalid new drama plays out before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.

The Court of the Judiciary consists of nine members - four judges selected by other Alabama judges, two members of the state bar selected by that organization’s governing board and three persons who are not lawyers, picked by the governor since a 2005 rule change.

The same body ousted Moore in 2003 over his unlawful refusal to obey a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the building where the high court hears cases.

It’s said insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. That’s what Moore appears to have done, rejecting federal rulings this time over his opposition to equal protection under the law for gays and lesbians. The question remains, however, if his poor judgment is actually an attempt to raise his far-right profile for a 2018 gubernatorial run.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of state bans on same-sex marriages last year, Moore in January used his judicial powers to try to stop Alabama probate judges from issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

The JIC ruling against Moore minces no words about how blatant a violation of judicial ethics his actions were. It cites him numerous times for flagrant disregard and abuse of his authority as head of Alabama’s judiciary, including “in substituting his individual opinion for that of the Court.”

The commission also accuses Moore of abandoning “his role as a neutral and detached chief administrator of the judicial system” such as inappropriately weighing in on a pending lawsuit over the constitutionality of same-sex unions.

Moore disputes the charges, saying they are politically motivated and claiming the JIC has no authority over his administrative orders to probate judges.

Wrong. Brought on by a complaint filed in 2015 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the commission’s charges are motivated by the rule of law, which Moore has ignored, and constitutional guarantees of equality for all Americans.

Moore is entitled to his religious views, but not to abandon his sworn duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

The Court of the Judiciary could convene Moore’s trial as soon as July. It should rule swiftly in the case and bring down the strongest possible sanction against Moore - removing him from the bench.

Online:

https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/

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