Local Politics

Lawsuit against N.C. attorney general will go to trial

Posted May 8, 2009

— A lawsuit against North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper will proceed to trial, a Superior Court judge ruled Friday.

Judge W. Osmond Smith III said in an order that "there are genuine issues of material fact" in the case in which Cooper ran a TV campaign advertisement in 2000 that claimed the law firm of his opponent sued the state and charged $28,000 an hour in attorney's fees.

Dan Boyce and his law firm sued Cooper for slander the day before the election, saying the ad was a lie and that Cooper knew it was false.

The case has bounced around on appeals – it even went before the U.S. Supreme Court – before being sent back to Wake County Superior Court.

Neither Cooper nor Boyce were available for comment Friday afternoon. The case is scheduled for trial May 18.

Trial is set for lawsuit against Cooper

"I think it was a significant event and a factor in the race," said David McLennon, a political science professor at Peace College in Raleigh.

McLennon said he believes the case will have a significant impact on campaign advertising that has become more over-the top.

"If the Boyce case is successful, I think political candidates and their consultants are going to take a second and third thought about the kind of claims they make in political ads," he said.

At a hearing earlier this week, Cooper's attorney, Jim Phillips, argued that the case should be dismissed, saying the information in the ad came from the Boyce campaign and that Cooper couldn't have known if it was false.

The $28,000-an-hour figure came from a rate a judge mentioned while discussing potential legal fees for a $150 million class-action suit that Boyce's father and law partner, Gene Boyce, settled with the state over taxes wrongly collected from state retirees.

Gene Boyce had sought 16 percent of the settlement, which the judge said "shocks the conscience of the court."

Although Dan Boyce didn't work on the case and his current firm, Boyce & Isley, didn't exist at the time of the settlement, Cooper's attorneys maintained that Dan Boyce took credit for the settlement during the 2000 campaign.

13 Comments

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  • 37 May 8, 6:00 p.m.

    For $28k/hr, I hope he got Johnny Cochran.

    I'd have more suits than Jacoby & Meyers for that kind of money.

  • Objective Scientist May 8, 5:58 p.m.

    Somehow, someway... we need to stop the ability of politicians to "drop a bomb" of untruth or a virtual distortion of the truth at the midnight hour before an election. Sure... legal action can be taken, as in this case, but that will always occur well after the electtion and too late. Often a last minute "bomb" is effective and may result in a "lesser person" being elected. How to do that without trampling on "free speech"? I do not have the solution.

  • winonedog May 8, 5:09 p.m.

    Roy was losing the race and dropped a bomb and it worked. if he can do that and win, then we should feel safe in NC to live and be happy knowing Roy is the Godfather of Politics. Don't mess with Roy or you will pay(a lot of tax dollars). Roy is for protecting government at all cost and our cost. The people voted him in, but it's not the people he is protecting.

  • Objective Scientist May 8, 5:07 p.m.

    "This case cost the state millions because Easley kept fighting it for 10 years even though the state was wrong, and eventually had to pay back the money going back 10 years."

    A person "very close to me" was retired and due to that incorrect interpretation was having his benefits taxed. He wrote a letter to the Governor at that time stating opposition to that action. The letter was very straight-forward, succinctly articulating reasons why the taxation of those benefits was wrong. Neither the "state" nor an individual was threatened in any way, and the letter was "clean" (no profanity, no "name calling"). It was a simple "this is wrong and here is why" letter. This person was a WWII veteran and retired civil service employee, a very "upstanding" member of the community, native NCarolinian who lived and paid taxes to NC his entire life. The year after he wrote the letter, his NC State tax return was audited. Neither he nor I feel that was mere "coincidence" and, no error on his return.

  • tsquaring May 8, 5:04 p.m.

    I can still remember how mad AG Lacy Thornburg was that he didn't get the nod. Yes, Easley wasted ton of money trying to keep retirees from getting their money. Probably hoping they would die before the case was settled. Yet, he was elected Gov twice. Good going NC.

  • The Fox May 8, 4:44 p.m.

    AG = Aspiring Governor

  • PaulRevere May 8, 4:32 p.m.

    And Richard Burr jumps for joy. So much for Cooper winning the democrat primary and challenging Burr next year.

  • time4real May 8, 4:25 p.m.

    say it isn't so! Roy won't be able to run for his self-appointed right to the Governor's seat now!

  • Professor May 8, 4:10 p.m.

    People of NC need to be very careful how we vote and who we put in certain offices.

  • Professor May 8, 3:50 p.m.

    Wrong is wrong, so no cover up. May he face the consequences of his action.

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