Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore made tens of thousands of dollars in speaking fees in 2016, even though his lawyers argued that his suspension from the Alabama Supreme Court left Moore unable to support himself.
“During my suspension from office and disqualification from acting as a judge, I earned $57,500 from speaking engagements outside the state of Alabama, which I properly reported to the Alabama Ethics Commission,” Moore was quoted as saying in a prepared statement Thursday.
Rich Hobson, a spokesman for Moore, read the statement to The Anniston Star in a telephone interview.
A panel of judges suspended Moore without pay from his position as chief justice in September, after the judges found that Moore had violated judicial ethics in defying the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. He has since announced his plan to run for Senate in the special election to be decided in December.
Moore, long an outspoken religious conservative, sent a memo to the state’s probate judges in early 2016, telling them that under Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage, they had a duty to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The Court of the Judiciary ruled to suspend Moore from the office without pay, but didn’t reach the unanimous verdict needed to completely remove him from office. Moore appealed to the state Supreme Court, arguing, among other things, that the suspension left him without a way to earn a living.
“Justice delayed is justice denied, particularly in this case where the COJ’s clever but illegal ‘suspension’ for the rest of the Chief Justice’s term precludes him from earning a livelihood to support his family,” one of Moore’s lawyers, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, argued in a brief in Moore’s appeal earlier this year.
The Alabama Constitution prohibits sitting judges from working as lawyers or holding non-judicial state offices. Moore’s advocates, during his appeal, argued that the suspension was worse than outright removal from office because it left Moore unable to work.
“You may not realize this: the man cannot make a living right now,” said Moore attorney Phillip Jauregui in an April press conference with Moore.
State ethics forms filed a little more than a week after that press conference show that the former judge did make money from “honorariums” for speaking events in 2016.
Those fees were small in comparison to the $181,000 Moore made in state pay during his last full year as chief justice, and it’s not clear whether Moore took on the speaking engagements before or after his suspension — but they do make clear that a sitting judge can make an outside income.
Officials at Liberty Counsel, the nonprofit law firm that represented Moore in the case, say they hadn’t been aware of Moore’s income as a public speaker.
“As far as speaking fees, we weren’t aware of it, and it wasn’t our place to know,” said Holly Meade, a spokeswoman for the group.
Attempts to reach Samford University law professor John Carroll, who represented the Judicial Inquiry Commission in the case against Moore, were unsuccessful Thursday. So too were attempts to reach the Southern Poverty Law Center, which brought a complaint against Moore that led to his suspension.
Hobson said he was aware of no particular reason why Moore’s 2016 speaking engagements were all out-of-state. Asked for further comment, Hobson said Moore had already made his statement on the issue.
Moore’s dilemma over outside employment vanished in late April, when he resigned as chief justice to launch a run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, who was appointed U.S. Attorney General earlier this year.
Moore will face incumbent Sen. Luther Strange — appointed to fill Sessions’ seat — and eight other Republicans in the primary, which will be held in August. Democrats have eight candidates to choose from.
The general election is set for Dec. 12.