In the near future, the Senate will almost certainly confirm Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions—a white supremacist who opposes federal civil rights law and believes the NAACP is “un-American”’—to be attorney general. Sessions’ move to the Justice Department will allow Alabama Republican Gov. Robert Bentley to appoint his replacement. One candidate on Bentley’s shortlist? Disgraced Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who is currently suspended from the bench for gross judicial misconduct.
The Montgomery Advisor’s Bryan Lyman reported on Wednesday that Bentley has spoken with eight candidates thus far and recently conducted a formal interview with Moore. The governor’s interest in Moore is somewhat surprising, since the judge’s nomination would undoubtedly set off a political firestorm. Moore notoriously blocked Alabama from implementing same-sex marriage after a federal judge ruled that the Constitution compelled it. He continued to block marriage equality in the state months after the U.S. Supreme Court settled the issue, ordering probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Then, in a bizarre opinion issued in his official capacity as chief justice, Moore described the high court’s marriage equality decision as “immoral,” “tyrannical,” and “unconstitutional,” urging state judges not to comply with it. (He had previously described homosexuality as an “inherent evil.”)
This behavior spurred a judicial ethics complaint, and in September, Alabama’s conservative Court of the Judiciary unanimously concluded that Moore had abused his position, violated the integrity of the judiciary, failed to comply with the law, and brought “the judicial office into disrepute.” The court suspended Moore for the remainder of his term and ordered him to pay the costs of the proceedings.
That wasn’t the first time Moore got into legal trouble. In the 1990s, Moore violated a federal court order demanding that he halt Christian prayers in his courtroom and remove a plaque of the Ten Commandments. Then, in 2001, Moore commissioned a huge granite monument to the Ten Commandments to be placed in the Alabama State Judicial Building. A federal judge held in 2003 that the Decalogue violated the Establishment Clause and ordered Moore to remove it. When he refused, the judicial ethics court removed him from office. He remained off the bench for nearly a decade, launching two failed gubernatorial bids, before voters returned him to the high court in 2012.
Moore would be an odd choice for Bentley, given that the governor himself is embroiled in his own legal controversy at the moment. A tawdry sex scandal involving the 73-year-old governor and a political adviser has tanked his approval ratings and spurred impeachment proceedings. Appointing a brash culture warrior like Moore to replace Sessions—rather than some blandly conservative apparatchik—would seem to pose great risk with minimal payoff. But then again, Bentley understands Alabama voters quite well. And perhaps there is no one they’d rather see replace the racist Sessions than an outright bigot like Moore.