Local Politics

Election long gone, but lawsuit lingers on

Posted May 4, 2009 7:02 p.m. EDT

— More than eight years after Attorney General Roy Cooper defeated Dan Boyce in his first campaign for the state office, a lawsuit between the two might finally go to trial.

During the 2000 campaign, Cooper ran a television advertisement that claimed Boyce's law firm sued the state and charged $28,000 an hour in attorney's fees.

Boyce and his law firm sued Cooper for slander, saying the ad was false and that Cooper knew it was false.

"There was no fee charged ... in that case," said Gene Boyce, Boyce's father and a partner in the Boyce & Isley law firm.

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 for hearing to determine whether it should finally go to trial.

Jim Phillips, Cooper's attorney, argued Monday that the case should be dismissed, saying the information in the ad came from the Boyce campaign, so Cooper couldn't have known if it was false.

"The evidence forecast in this (case) will show that the ad is substantially true under the cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court," Phillips said.

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

Although Dan Boyce didn't work on the case and 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.

Judge Osmond Smith is expected to rule in the coming days whether the case will proceed. If it does, a trial is scheduled to start in two weeks.