Legislature's legal bills top $9M in defense of state laws
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.Posted — Updated
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.
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."
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
Spending by firm
Search the full data
Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.