Roy Moore loves his many attorneys.
On Thursday, a whole gaggle of them got another 15 minutes of fame as he sued the state of Alabama to block the certification of Doug Jones as a United States senator. On December 12, Jones beat Moore in a special election.
If you’re reading this, you’ll remember that just hours before that fateful day, Moore’s wife, Kayla Moore, insisted her family couldn’t be Jew haters because, well, “One of our attorneys is a Jew.” Not even a friend — an attorney. I launched an immediate search for this unicorn.
For the 9,000 of us living here, Kayla Moore’s comment about having a Jewish attorney wasn’t a sign of her and husband being out of touch with reality. All jokes aside, the Jewish attorney comment drew national attention to our reality. In Alabama, Jewishness is strange and delicate, and the Jewish attorney, by merit of his mention, has come to represent all the Jews of the state.
As a Jewish educator in this small community, I felt that a quick tap of my network would locate any attorney working on the campaign. But, bupkis. Was this a New York Jew lawyer? A convert-to-Christianity lawyer? A zealous advocate in the office and a messianic Jew in the pews, praying to Jesus Christ? No, not even this Jew publication could find him or her — until now.
Turns out he was nothing so exotic, and he wasn’t working on the campaign, either. Rather, he’s a regular Jew with a common Jewish name and an unsurprising law practice. Richard Jaffe was hiding in plain sight. Born and raised in Birmingham, he is a Jewish lawyer whose family I have known for years now, and whose niece I used to have Shabbat dinner with.
And who is friends with Doug Jones.
I had neglected to turn over a major stone in my search for the Jewish attorney: Roy and Kayla Moore’s troubled son, Caleb Moore. The last time he made headlines for his legal issues was in 2015, when none other than Richard Jaffe, a Jewish lawyer born and raised in Birmingham, represented him.
The lawyer who defended the son of the defender of American morality wrote a book in 2012, titled “Quest for Justice: Defending the Damned.”
Meet Richard Jaffe, Nice Jewish Lawyer
Considered one of the national defense bar’s top lawyers, with a license to practice law in three states and in Washington, Jaffe has kept nearly 20 people off death row.
Jones and Jaffe, as high-profile legal peers in the same small city, have spent decades intertwined in each other’s careers, appearing in headlines and articles together.
In a video on Jaffe’s website, he and Jones discuss the nuances of work as a defense attorney. “As the defense, our job is to make absolutely sure that the client did or did not commit the crime before they go to prison,” Jones says. Jaffe nods his head slowly in agreement, responding: “Exactly. If defense and prosecuting attorneys could all switch jobs for a while, we would have a much fairer justice system.”
Jaffe’s most famous case was his defense of Eric Rudolph, whose attacks including the bombing of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and in 1998 the bombing a clinic that offered abortions in Birmingham. The clinic no longer operates, but I spent all of high school parking in its lot to go to the greasy spoon across the street. Rudolph was a Holocaust denier who, according to his sister, called the television “the electronic Jew.” Rudolph was involved with the white nationalism-motivated Christian identity group Army of God. Jaffe eventually withdrew from the case, though he never cited Rudolph’s Jew hatred as a reason.
At the time of the trial, Jaffe had discussed defending someone like Rudolph with the then-Temple Beth El rabbi Brian Glusman, who stated that as much as he may “detest Eric Rudolph,” the man was “entitled to a good defense.” Glusman has a particular interest in serving as counsel to addicts in his community (now Atlanta, not Birmingham), which brings us back to Caleb Moore.
Caleb Moore’s criminal record started with DUI and drug possession in 2011. He was 20 years old. In 2016 he was charged with drug possession again and chose to enter rehab. Working on his case: Jaffe. He had assured the local media that Roy Moore had not influenced the case. Typically, getting someone’s son off the hook for drug possession results in some form of relationship.
While on my Jewish attorney journey, I discovered some horrifying truths — like the Moore family being somewhat normal, going on vacations where they eat french fries and wear wrinkled T-shirts, taking pictures with very adorable grandchildren in their living room, which looks, well, lived-in. While most politicians are deemed to be entirely out of touch with reality, the Moores seem to be the average white Alabama family. They’re not out driving fancy cars or walking around in high-end clothes, they’re wearing Abercrombie polos in low-quality photos with Steve Bannon. It’s a strange thing to see this family beyond the news articles in which they stare dead-eyed at a crowd of journalists as they try to defend themselves into a microphone. But I am not here to defend the damned.
Meet Richard Jaffe: Complicated and Challenging
Richard Jaffe has made a career of giving publicly despised individuals a chance to be judged with fairness. He has had an incredibly impressive career: Jaffe is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and a member of the National Association of Distinguished Counsel, three-time “Lawyer of the Year” by Super Lawyers, the subject of an off-Broadway play and a member of the Alabama Death Penalty Assessment Team. He also has embarked on a quest to exonerate the Scottsboro Boys. Jaffe is not the schmuck I had imagined the Moores’ Jewish attorney to be. He is not someone with loose ties to the Jewish community. He is not masquerading as a Jew; he is not an apostate. He is not applauding Roy Moore’s dedication to enforcing the Noahide Laws and then some across the land. He is not going to churches to endorse Moore. He is not helping Moore wedge his way into the Senate despite his defeat, which Moore has refused to accept.
Jaffe is a man who is dedicated to justice and believes in the sanctity of the law. He is Jewish. He is an Alabamian. He is complicated and challenging. We may have all laughed at Kayla Moore’s comment, or recoiled in disgust at how grossly stereotyped it was, and perhaps those reactions were well deserved. And maybe I should have given up my search to find the Jewish attorney. It would have been the sane, reasonable thing to do. But it lead me to a man with an extraordinary career, a man who saves lives, a man who hears people out in ways the most righteous among us could never imagine.
The Jews of Alabama have been through a lot in 2017, from the Levite Jewish Community Center bomb threats to the threat of a senator who believes Jews are “not of American culture.” Jaffe, whether or not he is the Jew attorney Kayla Moore truly had in mind, is, in a way, a triumph for us. If there hadn’t been a lawyer, the Jews of Alabama would remain enigmatic and complicit in Moore’s campaign.
Justice can be hard to find, especially when it’s right in front of you.