The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

November 2, 2012

Moore, Vance face off in chief justice race


Associated Press

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The race for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court is between two men with high name recognition, but not for traditional reasons.

Former Chief Justice Roy Moore is seeking his old job. His run comes nine years after being removed from office for disobeying a federal judge's order to move a monument to the "Ten Commandments" from the lobby of the Alabama Judicial Building.

Vance may be best known because of his father, former federal appeals court Judge Robert Vance, who was assassinated by a mail bomb in December 1989.

Vance got a late start, not joining the race until August, when the original Democratic candidate, Pelham attorney Harry Lyon, was disqualified. In that time, Vance has out-fundraised Moore by about a 2-to-1 margin.

The 65-year-old Moore said he believes the public will judge him based on the scope of his career.

"I've done everything in the law from being in the military police to being a circuit judge to being Supreme Court chief justice," Moore said.

He said he kept gaining experience after leaving the chief justice's office in 2003 as the president of the Montgomery-based Foundation For Moral Law that defends what it sees as threats to religious liberty.

Moore recently sent a letter to the Autauga County school system offering to help after a group complained about the system allowing cheerleaders at Marbury High School to display religious themed signs when they perform.

He says he believes "a person should stand up for God" and that's why he says he defied the order from U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson to remove the granite Ten Commandments monument. It was later removed by order of the court's associate justices. Moore said he will not try to move the monument back into the Judicial Building.

Four of the justices who were on the court at that time have endorsed the 51-year-old Vance, who said he would quit as chief justice before he would defy an order from a federal judge.

"If I'm subject to a court order, I comply with that order," Vance said.

Since August, Vance has been able to raise a little more than $1 million total, according to campaign finance reports. Moore has been in the race about eight months longer and has raised about $600,000.

Moore said as chief justice he won't worry about what has happened in the past, but will concentrate on keeping the courts running in the face of funding shortages that have hit in recent years.

"You should always keep the courts open," he said. During his term as chief justice, Moore had, at times, a tumultuous relationship with the Democrat-controlled Legislature. But Moore said he expects smoother sailing with the current Republican-controlled House and Senate.

Vance said his top priority also will be the court funding issue.

"This is a real problem," Vance said of the financial crisis facing the courts. He said he has a "good working relationship with judges across the state and will work with them to keep courts open.

"But I want to make it clear there is no magic solution. I can't come up with a pot of gold," he said. He said he would work with legislators to find adequate funding for courts.

He said he would visit every judicial circuit in Alabama to discover their specific problems such as having a court backlog or not having enough judges.

Vance said his father was a great influence on him as a judge.

"I was a teenager when he became a federal judge. He took that responsibility very seriously," Vance said.

Vance has outspent Moore even though he has been in the race less than three months. Moore, who refuses to take money from political action committees, said he has been outspent in other races.

He said when he ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006 and 2010 "I didn't have enough money to run for governor."