11th Circuit revives Alabama justice's First Amendment suit over disciplinary probe

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A federal appeals court has ordered a lower-court judge to consider additional issues in a First Amendment suit filed by an Alabama justice who was facing a state ethics probe over his gay-marriage comments.

The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals returned the case filed by Justice Tom Parker to a federal judge who had tossed the suit in September, AL.com reports. The lower court judge had cited an abstention doctrine that discourages federal courts from interfering in pending state proceedings.

About a month after the case was dismissed, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission announced there would be no ethics charges filed against Parker for his comments, made on a conservative radio show.

Parker’s suit had claimed the commission inquiry violated the First Amendment because it was based on an overbroad and unenforceable judicial canon that bars judges from making comments about pending proceedings in any court. Parker also challenged a state constitutional provision that automatically suspends judges after ethics charges are filed.

The appeals court said in an order on Tuesday that it was returning the case to the lower-court judge “to consider the issue of mootness, in addition to any other arguments considering jurisdiction and the merits of the complaint.”

Liberty Counsel, which is representing Parker, issued this press release.

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