Raleigh, N.C. — A Superior Court judge ruled Friday that a Raleigh lawyer cannot force the North Carolina State Bar to investigate his misconduct complaint against Attorney General Roy Cooper, the Democratic candidate for governor.
The dispute in the latest chapter in a feud between Gene Boyce and Cooper that dates to the 2000 election, when Cooper was first elected attorney general by defeating Boyce's son, Dan Boyce.
Cooper ran a campaign ad that fall claiming that the Boyces' law firm charged excessive attorney fees in a class-action tax case they won against the state.
The Boyces filed a libel suit against Cooper, and the case wound its way up and down through the courts until it was finally settled in 2014. Under the settlement, Cooper paid $75,000 plus the fees of a mediator hired to deal with the case, and he issued a public apology to the Boyces, calling them "excellent and ethical lawyers and honorable people."
Gene Boyce said Friday that he never wanted to settle the case, but his family forced him to because they were concerned about his health.
Last year, he asked the State Bar to investigate Cooper for possible professional misconduct related to the long-running dispute. He said the State Bar never replied to his request, so he filed suit in January to obtain a court order to compel the agency to refer his complaint to an outside investigator.
"That's what's clouding my mind and that's what's brought me forward here to get this over with, but get it over with properly, so nobody can complain," Boyce said in a court hearing.
Judge Donald Stephens chastised Boyce for filing the lawsuit, saying he had 14 years to seek disciplinary sanctions against Cooper through the courts and failed to do so.
"The purpose of the State Bar disciplinary system is to protect the public in the courts and the integrity of the legal profession. It is not to provide a remedy for any kind of individual grievance," Stephens said in dismissing the case.
Boyce immediately said he plans to appeal the ruling.