Former Gov. Fob James is coming to the defense of Chief Justice Roy Moore, six years after he said he would use state troopers and the National Guard to defend Moore’s display of the Ten Commandments.
Moore’s attorneys filed papers Thursday in which James supported a second bid by Moore to have Attorney General Bill Pryor barred from prosecuting the judge on judicial ethics charges.
Moore is accused of violating judicial standards by defying a federal court order to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the state judicial building. Pryor’s office will prosecute.
"I will shortly file a motion in the Court of the Judiciary to strike Chief Justice Moore’s latest filing because much of it is false, and all of it is irrelevant," Pryor said in a Thursday statement. "My perspective on the judiciary, which is critical of judicial activism and faithful to the Constitution, has never changed."
But James said Pryor, a James appointee who has since won two elections on his own, in the past advocated the idea of defying court decisions - a position James said he considered a plus in appointing Pryor.
"Had he expressed his present view, I would not have found him qualified to be attorney general of Alabama," James said in a sworn statement.
James called Pryor’s current positions "utterly contrary to the political and legal convictions he expressed to me."
The former governor’s son, Fob James III, a lawyer, also submitted a sworn statement in which he said Pryor as attorney general represented Moore during past fights over the Ten Commandments. Moore’s lawyers claim Pryor should not be able to prosecute Moore because he was once his lawyer.
In separate papers, Moore’s lawyers asked the Court of the Judiciary to dismiss the charges. They also sought permission to question the court’s judges like potential jurors, including asking whether they have taken money from the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes Moore.
The defense request involving James marked Moore’s second attempt to disqualify Pryor from handling the case. The Court of the Judiciary rejected Moore’s initial request earlier this week.
After that decision, Moore sought to disqualify a majority of the nine members on the court, which has scheduled a Nov. 12 trial.
James has a history of backing Moore’s attempts to display the Ten Commandment in courthouses.
In 1997, when Moore was still a circuit judge in Etowah County, James told a church gathering he would use troopers and Guard members to stop anyone from removing a wooden Ten Commandments plaque Moore kept in his courtroom.
"The only way those Ten Commandments and prayer would be stripped from that courtroom is with the force of arms," James said at the time.
Moore later campaigned as the "Ten Commandments judge" to win the state’s highest judicial office and placed a granite monument of the Old Testament laws in the Supreme Court rotunda following his election.
A federal judge sided with three attorneys who filed suit claiming the monument unconstitutionally promoted religion, but Moore refused to remove it. The other eight judges on the Supreme Court overruled Moore and had the monument moved after he was charged with violating judicial rules and automatically suspended.