A member of Alabama’s Cabinet says when it comes to ousting state officials, one of his colleagues ought to be a bigger priority than suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore.
State Auditor Jim Zeigler released a statement Saturday saying he’d rather see Gov. Robert Bentley go than Moore, who is suspended on charges he violated ethics rules in attempting to prevent probate judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Bentley, for his part, faces allegations he abused his position amid “inappropriate comments” to — and perhaps an extramarital affair with — a former political adviser and staffer.
Zeigler says removing Moore could jeopardize proceedings in an ongoing effort by Bentley’s foes to impeach the governor over the allegations.
“One thing affects another. Removal of Chief Justice Roy Moore would compromise the efforts to impeach Gov. Robert Bentley,” said Zeigler. “Since the Chief Justice presides over any impeachment trial of a Governor, Bentley would be able to personally select the person to run his own impeachment trial.”
“Without the elected Chief Justice, the new Chief Justice would be named by Gov. Bentley acting alone. He can appoint any lawyer. That Bentley appointee would then be the presiding officer of the impeachment trial,” Zeigler continued.
“The people of Alabama already have a low confidence level in the gubernatorial impeachment process. Almost no one expects impeachment to make progress despite the serious allegations against Gov. Bentley. If Bentley is allowed to appoint the presiding officer for his own impeachment trial, the confidence level in that process would drop below zero,” Zeigler said.
In his statement over the weekend, Zeigler cited section 173 of the state constitution, which provides the head of the high court presides over any impeachment trial conducted by the Senate.
State law also dictates in the event a chief justice is unavailable to oversee an impeachment, a sitting associate justice would assume the reins.
“That is not likely at all,” Zeigler said. “If the impeachment process against the governor takes place at all, it will be six months from now or longer, while the judiciary trial of Chief Justice Moore is expected in June or July,”
“If Justice Moore is removed. Gov. Bentley would have the dream defense, the defense of last resort, the goal line stand. He can select the judge in his own case.
“What else can go wrong in Montgomery? The mess in Montgomery would make a good soap opera or novel. Only truth is stranger than fiction,” Zeigler said.