Christopher Brauchli is a columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. He can be emailed at [email protected]. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com.
Old times there are not forgotten…
Alabama is back. It hadn’t gone far, but whenever it returns, it fills the heart of the observer with wonder. Its most recent re-entry onto the national stage is occasioned by its September run-off election to fill the senate seat left vacant when Jeff Sessions became DJT’s attorney general.
The qualities of the Republican candidates running in that election bring to mind, for reasons unrelated to the upcoming election, (except that it also happened in Alabama,) the letter sent out to parents by the W.F Burns Middle School in Valley, Alabama, in 2015. The letter suggested that all children attending that school be armed with “canned goods” to protect themselves should an intruder enter their classroom. The letter said: “We realize at first this may seem odd, however, it is a practice that would catch an intruder off-guard. The canned food item could stun the intruder or even knock him out until the police arrive. The canned food item will give the students a sense of empowerment to protect themselves….”
It takes someone who lives in Alabama to feel secure when contemplating a roomful of middle schoolers throwing cans of food at an intruder who would, in all probability, be armed with something more lethal than a can of corn. As odd as this may seem, it is no odder than the run-off election that will take place in Alabama in September, where the two Republican contestants are Roy Moore and Luther Strange. On a comparative basis, Roy is stranger than Strange. The strange thing about Strange is how he became the replacement for Jeff Sessions as United States Senator, when Sessions gave up his senate seat in order to become DJT’s attorney general. The strange thing about Roy is Roy.
In April 2016, the Alabama House announced that articles of impeachment would be introduced to impeach then-Gov. Robert Bentley for corruption and neglect of duty because of an affair the governor had with one of his former aides. The House Judiciary Committee conducted the investigation on behalf of the House. In early November, Luther, who was the attorney general for the state, wrote the Judiciary Committee saying it: “would be prudent and beneficial to delay the work of the House Judiciary Committee on impeachment…. I respectfully request that the Committee cease active interviews and investigation until I am able to report to you that the necessary related work of my office has been completed.”
In response, the Judiciary Committee suspended its activities. On February 11, 2017, the governor appointed Luther to the United States Senate. On April 10, 2017, Gov. Bentley resigned. Only someone familiar with how things work in Alabama would tie Luther’s instructions to the House Judiciary Committee to the governor’s appointment of Luther to the United States Senate.
Luther’s competition in the September 26 run-off election is Roy Moore. Roy has the distinction of being, probably, the only person in the history of the United States to have served as the chief justice of a state’s highest court, and to have been removed from his position the first time he served, and barred from continuing to act the second time he served.
Roy’s career as chief justice began in 2000 when he was elected to that post. One of the first things he did upon assuming the chief justice’s office, was to have a 5,280-pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments built, and following its construction, installed in the central rotunda of the State Judicial Building. Litigation over the propriety of this installation followed and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court order for removal of the monument. Roy refused. As a result he was removed from the court by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary and the monument was removed from the rotunda by a large crane.
Ambition awakened again in Roy, and in 2012 he decided he would make a good chief justice notwithstanding his earlier disgraceful departure from that office. He ran again, and was elected to the position by the people in Alabama who had either forgotten about or didn’t care about his earlier service. Once again, Roy believed himself to be above the law. After a federal judge ordered Alabama probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Roy ordered the judges to ignore the federal court order. After a trial before the Judicial Inquiry Commission, he was found guilty of 6 violations of the Judicial Ethics by the commission and suspended as chief justice of the Court.
He continued to draw a salary, but the commission’s order said he could not remain an active member of the court. On April 17, 2017, the ruling of the Commission was upheld by the Alabama Supreme Court and on April 27, 2017, Roy resigned from the court. One day later he announced that he was running for the United States Senate seat held by Luther Strange. The primary election that took place on August 15, 2017, provided Roy with enough support to permit him to compete against Luther in the run-off election.
The foregoing goes to show that in Alabama you can’t keep a good man down. The quality of the two candidates in the run-off, however, suggests you may have trouble finding good men.