AL Justice Seeks Free Speech for Judges

Nov 30, 2017

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker has asked the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama to block enforcement of Alabama Judicial Canon 3A(6), while his federal lawsuit challenging the speech restrictions on judges continues.

Canon 3A(6) imposes a far reaching ban on Alabama judges, prohibiting them from publicly discussing any pending or impending case in any court of the country irrespective of whether the comments are likely to have any impact on the case.

Similar bans were abandoned long ago by the American Bar Association, and every other state in the nation have repealed these speech restrictive provisions, except Alabama.  Alabama alone retains this type of ban, and Alabama’s Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) has shown its willingness to use the ban to punish and silence judges like Justice Parker if they comment on any case no matter how removed it may be from Alabama. The speech restriction is so broad it prohibits a sitting judge who teaches or speaks to law students in a law school classroom from commenting on any pending case anywhere in the country.
At the request of a complaint filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the JIC opened an investigation of Justice Parker. Had the JIC filed a charge, he would have automatically been removed from the Alabama Supreme Court pending the litigation. After Liberty Counsel filed suit, and while the case was before the Court of Appeals, the JIC dismissed the complaint. But the speech restriction remains and can be used as a weapon any time.  

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