n. pl. treach·er·ies
1. Willful betrayal of fidelity, confidence, or trust; perfidy.
2. The act or an instance of such betrayal.
(The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.)
I’ve written before of the treachery of Bill Pryor, former Attorney General of Alabama and now sitting judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. With the looming vote on Pryor’s nomination to a lifetime appointment to that court, I offer more reflections.
Jeff Sessions served as Alabama Attorney General until his election to the U.S. Senate. Governor Fob James appointed Pryor to the office vacated by Sessions. At the time, Circuit Judge Roy Moore, of Etowah County, was defendant in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) because of prayers Judge Moore allowed in his courtroom and a Ten Commandments plaque in the courtroom.
Gov. James steadfastly defended Judge Moore and showed his solidarity by speaking publicly on the issues involved. When Gov. James was considering Pryor for appointment to the office of Attorney General, he questioned Pryor about his support for Judge Moore and the Ten Commandments display. The governor was assured that Pryor, like him, would stand in defense of Judge Moore.
Judge Moore had stated that he would not obey any court order to remove the Ten Commandments plaque from his courtroom. Pryor had defended this type of “non-acquiescence” in conversation with Gov. James and had even written in favor of such an approach in the Tulane Law Review. Pryor publicly stated that he would defend Judge Moore and that, even if some court ordered that Judge Moore remove the Ten Commandments from the courtroom, he would stand with Judge Moore in refusing to obey the order. On April 12, 1997, I attended a “Ten Commandments Rally” on the lawn of the state capitol in Montgomery. At that rally, Attorney General Pryor vocalized–before thousands of supporters–that he stood firmly in agreement with Judge Moore and Gov. James and even that he had become an attorney so he could fight the ACLU.
Later, when Judge Moore became Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and installed a Ten Commandments monument in the state judicial building, Attorney General Pryor defended him. He appointed two of Chief Justice Moore’s lawyers as deputy attorneys general. The chief justice was sued in his official capacity and the state defended him in that capacity (albeit, at no cost to the state).
When Myron Thompson, judge of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, ordered that Chief Justice Moore remove the Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama judicial building, the chief justice refused. Attorney General Pryor then set out on a crusade to portray himself in the best possible light and Judge Moore in the worst; he appeared on television programs and gave several interviews to the press in which he vilified the action of Chief Justice Moore and painted himself as a man who had to do an unfortunate duty because of the wild, unbridled reveling of a hardened criminal. Pryor lobbied the associate justices of the Alabama Supreme Court to remove the monument themselves. The associate justices did so.
A complaint of ethical misconduct was filed against Chief Justice Moore before the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) and he was suspended from the bench pending an investigation. The JIC initially acted as a grand jury, considering the evidence against Chief Justice Moore and deciding whether the complaint warranted an ethics trial. The Commission concluded that there was sufficient reason to bring the case to trial; at this point, the JIC became the plaintiff in a case against the chief justice before the Court of the Judiciary (COJ).
When the JIC brought the case to the COJ, Attorney General Pryor became the prosecutor. Chief Justice Moore’s attorneys protested Pryor’s prosecution of the chief justice because Pryor had been privy to Moor’s defense of the Ten Commandments case–if Pryor were to prosecute the chief justice, the attorney-client privilege would be violated. Not only would this have been problematic; the attorney general’s own prior statements were in support of the chief justice and his subsequent prosecution of Moore would have been a betrayal of the chief justice and the state’s position on the display of the Ten Commandments and the public acknowledgement of God.
However, this was not the only conflict of interest at issue. The terms of two members of the COJ had expired. The attorney general issued an advisory opinion to Governor Bob Riley, stating that it was acceptable for the two members to remain on the court even though their terms had expired. In effect, Attorney General Pryor was hand-picking two judges of the very court before which he would prosecute Chief Justice Moore. Every one of the several challenges of the chief justice’s attorneys to the numerous conflicts of interest in the case were denied by the court.
On November 13, 2003, I sat in the courtroom of the Alabama Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Moore was tried for ethical misconduct. I witnessed Attorney General Pryor stand before the COJ, questioning the chief justice about his actions. The attorney general and his deputies played for the court a news video tape of Chief Justice Moore speaking at a rally at the state capitol on August 16, 2003, wherein he stated that he could not and would not obey the order of Judge Thompson to remove the Ten Commandments monument. This was the entirety of the prosecution’s argument. The defense attorneys called Moore to the stand; after the chief justice’s attorneys had completed their questioning, Attorney General Pryor stepped up to cross examine him.
Thrice Pryor asked Moore if he would continue to acknowledge God no matter what any man told him. Thrice Moore answered in the affirmative. Here follows a snippet of the official court transcript:
Pryor: “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?”
Moore: “That’s right.”
Pryor: “No matter what any other official says?”
Moore: “Absolutely. Without–let me clarify that–without an acknowledgment 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’ve read.”
Pryor: “The only point I am 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 without regard to what any other official says. Isn’t that right?”
Moore: “I … must.”
Bill Pryor has shown that he is untrustworthy; he is faithless. He violated the promise of his appointment which he made to Gov. James. He violated the statements of his own conscience made publicly, without duress. He violated the Alabama Constitution of 1901, Section 3, by prosecuting Chief Justice Moore for his religious beliefs. He violated the U.S. Constitution, Article 6, by imposing a religious test for qualification of a state judicial officer. Pryor attempted to coerce a state constitutional officer to violate his oath to uphold the Alabama constitution and to defend the rights of the people.
If all those things weren’t enough, Bill Pryor, who is supposedly a devout Roman Catholic, asked Roy Moore, a Christian, to deny God before men. This is the very thing that Satan tried to convince Christ to do (Matthew 4:8-10):
Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, ‘Alll these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.’ Then saith Jesus unto him, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.'”
And this is the very thing that Christ said would lead to damnation (Matthew 10:32-33):
Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
Not only has Pryor tried to entice another to accept man’s authority above God’s authority, he has done much more. He instructed Alabama’s district attorneys not to enforce, in certain cases, the requirements of the Alabama law against partial birth abortion. He testified before Congress in 2003 that, although Roe v. Wade is “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history”, he would not oppose the terms of that decision if he were to be approved for a federal judgeship–because he is able to separate his personal beliefs from his duty to obey “the law”.
Chairman [Orrin] Hatch: “So even though you disagree with Roe v. Wade you would act in accordance with Roe v. Wade on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals?”
Mr. Pryor: “Even though I strongly disagree with Roe v. Wade I have acted in accordance with it as Attorney General and would continue to do so as a Court of Appeals Judge.”
As a currently sitting federal judge, in the state-sanctioned murder of Terri Schiavo, Pryor refused to even register dissent in the federal appeals court’s decision not to allow a new hearing of her case.
For these reasons, and many more like them, Bill Pryor should have never been nominated to a federal judgeship or given a recess appointment by President George Bush. He should certainly not now be approved by the Senate for a lifetime appointment as a federal judge. How long will we decry judicial activism yet continue to put in place judicial activists? Can we tolerate as a magistrate–who had a duty before God–a man who persecutes others for acknowledging God? How can we tolerate as a magistrate a man who affirms that the destruction of life is morally wrong and that judges who interpret the Constitution to allow abortion are wrong but would still go along with those judges?
Transcript of the ethics trial of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore before the Court of the Judiciary. Attorney General Bill Pryor, prosecutor.
Affidavit submitted by former Alabama Governor Fob James to the Court of the Judiciary. James alleged that Pryor was faithless.
Affidavit submitted by Fob James, III (son of the former governor) to the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. James alleges that Pryor was faithless.
Motion to disqualify members of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. Argued that the terms of two judges had expired.
Transcript of the June 11, 2003 U.S. Senate hearing on the nomination of Bill Pryor for federal appeals court judgeship.
Federal appeals court for the 11th Circuit en banc order refusing to give a new hearing in the Terri Schindler (Schiavo) case.
“Why I Support (In Part) the Democratic Filibuster” by Doug Phillips. April 25, 2005.
“Republican Judges Killed Terri” by Joseph Farah. May 9, 2005.