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Fri August 22, 2003
Alabama's Associate Justices Intervene
By Butler Cain
Tuscaloosa, AL – Alabama's eight associate Supreme Court justices overruled Chief Justice Roy Moore and said the state will comply with a federal court order to move the Ten Commandments monument. The decision received praise from Attorney General Bill Pryor.
"The associate justices of Alabama have done their duty. As attorney general, I applaud them, I congratulate them and I thank them."
The associate justices signed and released a seven page order around 10 A-M Thursday, instructing the judicial building's manager to comply with the order "as soon as practicable." The action also earned appreciation from Bob Varley, who is a cooperating attorney in the effort to move the monument.
"I really respect the courage of the associate justices to stand up for the rule of law and to make the decision to countermand Chief Justice Moore and to obey the district court's injunction."
However, Chief Justice Moore bristled at the decision, saying he is very disappointed with his fellow justices. He has promised to make a full appeal to the U-S Supreme Court. Even though it is unlikely he will be able to prevent the monument's removal from the judicial building's rotunda, he told a cheering crowd the fight to acknowledge God must -- and will -- continue.
"I have been ordered to do something I cannot do, and that is violate my conscience. I hear others talk of a rule of law. If the rule of law means doing everything a judge tells you to do, we would still have slavery in this country."
But those talking about upholding the rule of law in this case include Attorney General Bill Pryor and Governor Bob Riley. Governor Riley says Alabama is bound by law to follow the federal court order to place the monument elsewhere. He says even though he fundamentally disagrees with the decision, and supports the chief justice's appeal, Riley says the state simply cannot afford to defy the federal judge. Attorney General Pryor holds a similar view.
"There has been a lot of talk about the rule of law in recent days. The rule of law means that no person, including the chief justice of Alabama, is above the law. The rule of law means that when courts resolve disputes, after all appeals and arguments, we must all obey the orders of those courts, even when we disagree with those orders."
Several who disagree with the order have been in Montgomery to participate in what they call peaceful civil disobedience. The Christian Defense Coalition has organized around the clock vigils to keep the Ten Commandments monument in place, and some protestors have been arrested. Despite Thursday's order from the eight associate justices, the monument is still in the supreme court building, and the Christian Defense Coalition's Bob Jewitt says its supporters will not give up.
"As long as that monument is in the building, it's a victory. So, every minute we are counting is a big victory. So, we will be here. We have vowed to keep that monument in the building. I mean, they may try to move it. We want to keep it in the building."
Meanwhile, Chief Justice Moore is facing another battle today. The plaintiffs in the case have filed a complaint against Moore, saying his decision to defy Federal Judge Myron Thompson's order violates the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics. Attorney Bob Varley says that issue will be discussed this morning.
"There will be a conference call, it is my understanding, something around nine o'clock, with all the parties, and I guess we'll just have to see what happens then."
For Alabama Public Radio, I'm Butler Cain.