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Appeals Court Revives Justice Tom Parker's Suit Against JIC

Contact: Liberty Counsel, 407-875-1776, Media@LC.org; Press Kit 

MONTGOMERY, Ala., Feb. 10, 2017 /Christian Newswire/ -- The Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously sided with Liberty Counsel's motion to send back to the trial court the legal challenge filed against the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) by Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice Tom Parker. The JIC's motion to dismiss the challenge was denied.

Hon. Tom Parker is challenging the constitutionality of several speech restrictive Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics and the automatic disqualification provision of Section 159 of the Alabama Constitution. These provisions were being used by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to silence the protected speech of Justice Parker. The lower court dismissed Justice Parker's lawsuit, on the grounds that the JIC's pending investigation required federal courts to abstain from the matter. However, while Parker's appeal was pending, the JIC dismissed the SPLC's complaint. Liberty Counsel then filed a motion to have the case returned to the lower court to address the merits of the legal challenge. This action is crucial since the violation of First Amendment rights is capable of being (and likely to be) repeated in this and future cases. The JIC objected and argued that the case should be dismissed. The Federal Court of Appeals sided with Liberty Counsel.

Alabama is the only state in the nation that automatically removes a judge from the bench when a charge is issued. Alabama provides no due process. The case can drag on for months or years, as is the case with Chief Justice Roy Moore. This automatic removal provision turns justice on its head.

Justice Parker is also challenging a judicial canon that prohibits a judge from commenting on any case pending anywhere in the country even though the case is not before that judge. Many years ago, the American Bar Association took the position that such restriction is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment. But instead of revising the canon, Alabama continues to retain the unconstitutional canon.

"We will continue to press this case until we receive justice," said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. "The judicial canon that prohibits judges from commenting on any case anywhere in the country is patently unconstitutional. Every judge who teaches law school students would be silenced by this broad restriction on speech. The automatic removal provision is also unconstitutional because judges are deprived of due process. Our system of law presumes innocence until proven guilty but the automatic removal provision turns this cornerstone of justice on its head," said Staver.

Liberty Counsel will continue the legal challenge in the lower court and request the court address the merits of the case.

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.