Mar 13, 2017
ATLANTA, GA – Liberty Counsel has filled a response for Alabama Justice Tom Parker opposing the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) and the Attorney General’s briefs asking the court to dismiss Parker’s case without addressing the constitutional questions he has raised about the free speech of judges. Justice Parker is challenging the rules governing the Alabama judges which have been abandoned in every other state and have been labeled “unconstitutional” by the American Bar Association. These rules have chilled speech to such a great extent that it seeks to completely silence Alabama judges in any public setting.
Seventeen months ago Justice Parker participated in a radio interview answering questions on a wide-range of issues, including his thoughts on matters of paramount constitutional importance. That single interview resulted in an ethical complaint being lodged against him by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which triggered a yearlong investigation by the JIC. This inquisition was based on nothing more than his exercise of his constitutionally protected freedom of speech. After lengthy litigation, the court has yet to even consider the merits of Justice Parker’s case. Now Liberty Counsel has responded, urging the court to listen to his case and rule on the merits of his arguments. One of the main arguments of the JIC is that his speech was regarding the 2016 election. However, it is illogical to argue that no future Alabama judge will have a public opinion on a future election or that Justice Parker will not run again for judicial office.
If Justice Parker had been charged, he would have been suspended pending a hearing. This automatic removal provision is a critical part of Parker’s lawsuit. The speech restrictive judicial canon violates the First Amendment and the automatic removal violates due process and other constitutional provisions. Alabama is the only state to have this automatic removal provision that removes a judge for any charge.
“We are earnestly fighting for the free speech of not only Justice Parker but for every judge in Alabama. It is unbelievable that any state would force people to abandon their free speech rights, when everyone agrees that this speech restriction is unconstitutional,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “We are focusing on restoring our nation’s guiding principles to Alabama. This lawsuit exposes a clear violation of the First Amendment that no one can honestly defend,” said Staver.
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.