MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Republican primary for Alabama chief justice pits a long-time ally of Roy Moore against the judge who took over his duties when Moore was suspended from the bench by a judicial ethics panel for defying rulings on same-sex marriage.
Alabama Chief Justice Lyn Stuart faces Associate Justice Tom Parker in the June 5 GOP primary for chief justice. The winner will face Democrat Bob Vance, a Jefferson County judge, in November.
The race between Republican court colleagues features Stuart who at a candidate forum emphasized her decades on the bench and returning stability to the court system and Parker, who like Moore, proudly talks about the criticism he’s received from the Southern Poverty Law Center and others and calls the court system a “battleground.”
Stuart, as senior member of the court, took over as acting chief justice when Moore was suspended in 2016 after an ethics panel ruled Moore urged probate judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court order allowing gays and lesbians to marry. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey later appointed Stuart to replace Moore as chief justice for the remainder of his term. Stuart is the first Republican woman to hold the position of chief justice.
Stuart was first elected to the Supreme Court in 2000. A native of Atmore, she graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law. She worked as an assistant attorney general and prosecutor. She was elected as a district judge in 1988. Then-Gov. Fob James appointed Chief Justice Stuart as a circuit judge in 1997.
Stuart said in a campaign speech in a Millbrook candidate forum that she and Parker vote similarly as court members, but the race is about, “Who can lead this court system of this state forward.”
“I’ve restored I think a sense of security to the trial courts. … An employee of the court system said ‘Thank you Chief Justice Stuart, you’ve brought quiet stability back to the Alabama Supreme Court.’ That’s what I’ve done. That’s what I’ll continue to do,” Stuart said.
Parker, a native of Montgomery, is a graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Law. He served as an assistant attorney general and was served as deputy administrative director of the state court system and also served as legal adviser to Moore when he was chief justice. Parker was first elected to the Supreme Court in 2004.
“The courts are the battleground today. We need judges who will stand strong for the values we hold dear and the things that have made this country great,” Parker said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed the ethics complaint that led to Moore’s suspension, also filed an ethics complaint against Parker, accusing him of showing disrespect for the judiciary with comments he made about the landmark marriage ruling. Parker said on a Christian radio show that the U.S. Supreme Court justices jumped outside legal precedents to “impose their will on this country.” The Judicial Inquiry Commission dismissed the complaint.
Parker at the candidate forum noted his “defense of marriage” prompted the complaint from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“But I beat them,” Parker said.
Stuart has a fundraising advantage over Parker. Stuart raised $917,405 to Parker’s $419,725, according to May campaign finance reports.