@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Legislature's legal bills top $9M in defense of state laws

Posted August 7

North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore

— Law firms have billed Republican legislative leaders $9.3 million for legal services since January 2011, more than half of which comes from defending voter ID legislation struck down last week by a federal appeals court.

The total spent on private lawyers is more than 20 times the amount the legislature spent on outside counsel in the decade prior and largely covers the cost of fending off challenges to redistricting, the amendment banning gay marriage, vouchers for attending private schools and House Bill 2.

North Carolina flag flies over state capitol As attorney general, GOP clash, spending on private lawyers skyrockets

Legislative leaders contend the costs are necessary to protect laws passed by the state's elected representatives, laws Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat who is running against Gov. Pat McCrory in November, has in several cases declined to defend. It's a move Republicans have criticized as putting politics above his duties as the state's top lawyer.

"For years, Roy Cooper has been squarely in the pocket of far-left special interest groups abusing the court system to undo their losses at the ballot box and has cared more about pandering for their money in his governor’s race than his constitutional duty to defend state laws, and that’s why we have called on him to resign," Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement. "Make no mistake, his refusal to do his job is the main reason we’ve been forced to hire outside counsel, and he is responsible for the increased costs on taxpayers."

But in many cases like voter ID, the Attorney General's Office was actively defending the state, meaning taxpayers were effectively double-billed by both private and state lawyers. Cooper said last week he would not appeal the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that struck down the voter ID measure, and McCrory said he will now take it to the U.S. Supreme Court himself.

The Attorney General's Office contends the legislature's private lawyers are unnecessary and that the cases he chose not to appeal were no longer legally defensible – a decision all lawyers must make.

"Governor McCrory and the General Assembly have no one to blame but themselves for wasting millions in taxpayer dollars by passing clearly unconstitutional laws for political purposes," Samantha Cole, a spokeswoman for Cooper's office, said in a statement. "Even so, our professional attorneys worked hard to defend most of these laws, and private attorneys were an unnecessary expense."

The Governor's Office has not yet responded to a similar request made on July 5 for legal bills.

Spending by year

Spending data, obtained by WRAL News from General Assembly Legislative Services, show all billed amounts for legal services to the legislature from January 2011 through July 5, 2016. Explore additional views of the data below.

Spending by issue

please wait

Spending by firm

please wait

Search the full data

please wait
39 Comments

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Lee Outland Aug 11, 5:48 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    I'd rather the wasted $9 million go to help educate our children in the state's public school system, so they grow up to become intelligent, well-adjusted, loving, empathetic and fair-minded adults.

  • Amy Whaley Aug 9, 9:32 a.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    wow, Sam, I said I thought of Melowese when I saw the difference in the number of voters.... I am not making any other claim other than if Melowese had to show her id then she could not have casted but one vote for her niece instead of two!

  • Amy Whaley Aug 9, 9:28 a.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    I never asked about voter fraud, however, there are many true instances of voter fraud. I haven't linked anything that isn't true. What I asked was for a survey of who and who did not have an id. I claim that those who are financially poor are more apt to have an id than those who aren't simply because the poor are more likely to receive government assistance which requires id. As for voter fraud, there currently isn't an effective way to catch all voter fraud.

  • Roy Delbert Aug 9, 8:39 a.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread



    Candace I'm pulling one for Obama play book, Its Gov. Bev Perdue Fault. the problem was created before I took office.... I'm just trying to right the ship......

  • Ed Livesay Aug 8, 9:19 p.m.
    user avatar

    Money, VERY well spent!

  • Sam Nada Aug 8, 9:04 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread



    You cite one example of a poll worker who was sentenced to prison for voter fraud, and who's actions would not have been prevented by a voter ID law. And that's your justification for the NCGA knowingly and intentionally writing a law that would "surgically" reduce minority voting? How would reducing the number of days and places for early voting reduce voter fraud? The onus is on the GOP to 1) show reliable evidence that there's a significant problem, beyond very rare single cases with no end result impact, and 2) present a solution that would not create a much worse problem. On both counts the GOP NCGA failed, and did so with the intention of improving their own political prospects.

  • Sam Nada Aug 8, 8:57 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread



    You asked the question, now present evidence of an answer that would justify enacting voter ID laws. Just because someone has a fear of something bad doesn't justify passing a law that knowingly disenfranchises many voters. Here's an article on claims made by the GOP regarding voter fraud, and how each claim was false.

    http://www.snopes.com/politics/ballot/2012fraud.asp

    Here's an extensive study by the independent Brennan Center for Justice:

    https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/The%20Truth%20About%20Voter%20Fraud.pdf

    "Allegations of widespread voter fraud, however, often prove greatly exaggerated ... many of the claims of voter fraud amount to a great deal of smoke without much fire. The allegations simply do not pan out. "

  • Amy Whaley Aug 8, 7:32 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    Also, Sam, as I read the article you linked, I kept thinking of Melowese Richardson. She is the Democrat poll worker who admitted she voted like 6 times for Obama. Even worse, she was a veteran poll worker. So when comparing voter turnout between states that require voter id and those that don't, are we seeing the results of those who vote like Melowese?

  • Amy Whaley Aug 8, 7:22 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    Thank you for the link Sam.... it claims that the issue is really unsettled. The article states that Latino voter turnout was less in states that required id's as compared to states that didn't, however, they never addressed the issue of why and id would deter them. Could it be because they aren't legal?

  • Raleigh Rose Aug 8, 4:55 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    Thanks Sam Nada. Considering the NCGA is 0-6 when it comes to their most divisive laws being struck down by the courts, I think it's safe to say that the courts in general do not feel the laws being based by the NCGA are Constitutional. That's a pretty poor record.

More...