Notes from the ethics trial of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

Following are notes made by Daniel Sparks of the trial of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore before the Court of the Judiciary on charges of ethical misconduct for refusal to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the state Judicial Building. Attorney General Bill Pryor prosecuted the Chief Justice.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

9:10 a.m.: Chief Justice Roy Moore enters the courtroom and sits at the defense table. He places books and papers on the table, including his Bible.

9:17 a.m.: Supreme Court Chief Marshal announces that, at counsel request, the proceedings will not start until 9:30.

9:33 a.m.: Court proceedings begin.

Attorney of Chief Justice Moore asks Chief Judge William Thompson if opening in prayer would be appropriate. “Absolutely,” says Judge Thompson. He leads in prayer, asking God to “bless this court.”

Judges and attorneys introduce themselves, stating their names, positions, and hometowns.

State prosecutors: Bill Pryor (Attorney General), Gibbs (Assistant Attorney General), Davis (Chief Assistant Attorney General), Atwood (Assistant Attorney General).

Defense attorneys: Jones, Butts, Wilson.

Charges are read. Allegation of violations of Canons of Judicial Ethics number 1, 2, 2a, and 2b.

Affirmation of pre-trial stipulations of parties, concerning admission of evidence.

Defense attorneys object to four exhibits.

Prosecutors do not object to Defense exhibits.

9:52 a.m.: Opening arguments begin.

Pryor begins opening arguments for State. Says State presentation will be brief. Says court must find Chief Justice guilty of violation of Canons of Judicial Ethics. Says court must remove Chief Justice from office. Says Chief Justice has exhibited “totally unrepentant behavior.”

Wilson makes opening arguments for Defense. Says Chief Justice campaigned for office on platform of restoring moral foundation of law. Says no one, “unless they were in a coma,” were surprised that Chief Justice placed Ten Commandments in the Judicial Building.

10:03 a.m.: State proceeds with case.

State wants to play two video taped speeches by Chief Justice.

Defense objects to playing of videos. Says both videos were taped from television broadcasts. Says there are television commentary and captions on the tapes that are not part of the Chief Justice’s speech. Says the two speeches in question have already been admitted as evidence in written form.

Thompson overrules objection of Defense. Says this was decided in pre-trial proceedings. Says that the judges will ignore the captions and not consider them.

10:35 a.m.: State rests. Presents no evidence other than the videos.

Defense makes immediate motion for acquittal based on lack of evidence by the State.

Thompson says court will consider motion during recess.

10:40 a.m.: Court recesses until 11:00 a.m.

11:07 a.m.: Court resumes.

Thompson announces that the defense motion for acquittal is unanimously denied by the judges.

Defense proceeds with case.

Calls Chief Justice as witness.

Defense attorney objects to placement of witness. Says that having the witness sit at a table facing the nine judges, with his back to the prosecutors/accusers is a highly unusual setting for a courtroom proceeding.

Thompson says that the table is used because of sound difficulties with the witness stand. Says that sound technicians checked the setup before the trial proceedings began and were unable to use any other configuration.

Defense attorney repeats objection. Says that witness stand is normally used and has no sound problems. Asks for sound technicians to be called back to correct problem.

Thompson states that the sound technicians are no longer present.

Defense attorney repeats objection. Says that the Judicial Building normally employs such technicians who could be called to check the configuration.

Thompson states that the witness stand will not be used but that the table and witness’ microphone may be moved somewhat in order to accommodate the witness.

Defense attorney repeats objection and asks that it be entered on the record. Asks if court really wishes to overrule this objection and have the Chief Justice face the judges with his back to his accusers, similar to an inquisition.

Chief Justice comes to table to testify. He moves the table and chair around so that it diagonally faces the prosecutors.

Defense questions Chief Justice.

12:01 p.m.: Court recesses for lunch until 1:30 p.m.

1:32 p.m.: Court resumes.

1:34 p.m.: Pryor begins cross-examination of Chief Justice.

Asks if Chief Justice will continue to acknowledge God if he is returned to the bench. Chief Justice says he will continue to acknowledge God just as the court did when it opened the trial proceedings with prayer.

From the Attorney General’s own mouth: Bill Pryor questions Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Q: Mr. Chief Justice? And your understanding is that the federal court ordered that you could not acknowledge God; isn’t that right?

A: Yes.

Q: And if you resume your duties as Chief Justice after this proceeding, you will continue to acknowledge God as you have testified that you would today?

A: That’s right.

Q: No matter what any official says?

A: Absolutely. Without–let me clarify that. Without an acknowledgement of God, I cannot do my duties. I must acknowledge God. It says so in the constitution of Alabama. It says so in the first amendment to the United States Constitution. It says so in everything I have read. So–

Q: The only point I’m trying to clarify, Mr. Chief Justice, is not why, but only that, in fact, if you do resume your duties as Chief Justice, you will continue to do that [acknowledge God] without regard to what any other official says; isn’t that right?

A: Well, I’ll do the same thing this court did with starting a prayer; that’s an acknowledgement of God. Now, we did the same say thing that justices do when they place their hand on the Bible and say, “So help me God.” It’s an acknowledgement of God. The Alabama Supreme Court opened with, “God save the State and this Honorable Court.” It’s an acknowledgement of God. In my opinion, which I have written many opinions, acknowledging God is the source–a moral source of law. I think you must.

Cartoon from . Used with permission.

1:47 p.m.: Cross-examination completed.

Defense has no redirect.

Judge Vowell questions the Chief Justice. Asks Chief Justice whether he would follow the injunction of the federal district court, if he were returned to the bench.

Chief Justice replies that the order was to remove the monument, that the monument has already been removed; thus, he cannot do what has already been done.

Vowell asks what the Chief Justice would do with the monument.

Chief Justice replies that he has not completely thought through the idea of what he would do with the monument but that he certainly would not leave it in a closet hidden from view.

1:50 p.m.: Defense rests.

1:52 p.m.: State (Assistant Attorney General) begins closing arguments.

Says that Chief Justice made a “public statement that he would not follow the law.” Says that the Chief Justice should be found guilty because he has refused “to comply with the law.” Says that, “in order to comply with the law … he [the Chief Justice] had no choice but to obey the order.”

2:06 p.m.: State ends closing arguments.

Defense attorney Butts gives excellent summary in closing argument.

2:37 p.m.: Defense completes closing arguments.

Pryor begins closing argument.

Calls for conviction of Chief Justice and removal from office. Calls the Chief Justice “unrepentant.”

2:44 p.m.: Pryor ends closing argument.

Thompson says that the court will recess and will “attempt to give sufficient notice” of ruling of the court.

2:45 p.m.: Court recesses.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

11:17 a.m.: Judges enter courtroom. Thompson announces he will read a synopsis of the judgement and that the actual judgement will be available to the media immediately after the court adjourns.

Thompson reads the charges.

Thompson reads the judgement.

“All the members of this court” find that the Chief Justice “willfully and publicly disobeyed a federal court order.” “In defying that court order, the Chief Justice placed himself above the law.” The court finds, by unanimous decision, that the Chief Justice violated canons 1, 2, 2a, and 2b. The Chief Justice has “maintained his defiance” and “showed no signs of contrition.” The court orders, by unanimous decision, that the Chief Justice is to be removed from office. This has been a “difficult decision” but there was “no other viable alternative” than to remove the Chief Justice from the bench.

11:23 a.m.: Court adjourns.

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