News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Justice Parker advocates defying the law of the land

Justice Tom Parker ought to know judicial activists when he sees them. He's acting like one — as his Alabama Supreme Court colleague Mike Bolin has observed.

The extraordinary public dispute between the two results from a dissenting opinion that Mr. Parker filed in an unusual place — on the opinion pages of The Birmingham News, rather than in the court clerk's office.

Mr. Parker was not eligible to help the court decide whether to overturn the death sentence against Renaldo Chante Adams because, in a previous job, Mr. Parker prosecuted Adams. The court voted 8-0 to reverse that sentence, which brought about Mr. Parker's dissenting newspaper column.

Mr. Parker says the Alabama high court should not have complied with an "activist" 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that outlawed the execution of people who were under 18 when they committed murder. Adams was 17 when he raped and murdered a pregnant Montgomery woman.

As Mr. Parker wrote in his column, it was a vicious crime worthy of the death penalty. But the law is the law, and there is no higher authority on U.S. law than the U.S. Supreme Court. To refuse to honor that court's decision would deny the defendant his constitutional right to due process of law.

And Mr. Parker's idea that a defiant stand by the Alabama court might lead to a reversal by the nation's high court is fantasy. President Bush's two recent appointees, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, are replacing justices who voted against the 5-4 execution ruling. The five justices who voted for it are still in place.

Mr. Parker is a protege of former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was booted from office for defying a federal judge. Neither of these two seems to understand what it means to obey the law.

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