School vouchers, court size central to Cooper's latest court battle against lawmakers
Lawyers for Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican legislative leaders were back in court Friday, battling over school voucher spending included in the state budget and a law trimming the size of the state Court of Appeals.Posted — Updated
Lawmakers have no authority to dictate what a governor puts in the budget he recommends every year, Eric David, an attorney for Cooper, argued to Judges Henry Hight of Vance County, Jay Hockenbury of New Hanover County and Nathaniel Poovey of Catawba County.
"The General Assembly is seeking to make the governor their mouthpiece," David said, by substituting their priorities in the budget for his.
Martin Warf, an attorney for lawmakers, countered that the state's base budget is merely a reflection of laws passed to that point. Including more money for vouchers in the base budget doesn't preclude Cooper or future governors from adding to or subtracting from the total in providing a proposed budget to lawmakers, he said.
Jim Phillips, an attorney for Cooper, said the state constitution sets appellate judges' terms at eight years, and lawmakers are violating that by eliminating judgeships before that eight years is up. The move also takes away Cooper's right to name successors to fill the remainder of the eight-year term.
But Noah Huffstetler, an attorney for the lawmakers, differentiated the office from the eight-year term, saying the offices are being eliminated, so there is no vacancy for the governor to fill. The only constitutional restriction lawmakers face is to have at least five judges on the Court of Appeals, he added.
Phillips responded, however, that allowing the law to stand would create a bad precedent, allowing lawmakers to abolish offices at will.
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