Commentary

Report: State spends more than $9 million on private lawyers to defend indefensible laws

Berger-Moore-McCroryIn case you missed it yesterday, be sure to check out reporter Tyler Dukes’ important story on WRAL.com: “Legislature’s legal bills top $9M in defense of state laws.”

As Dukes reports:

“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.

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.”

Dukes also reports that the legislators are trying, predictably, to blame their decisions to funnel millions in state money to friendly law firms on Attorney General Roy Cooper. Senate leader Phil Berger claimed, in typically understated fashion, that Cooper, is in “the pocket of far-left special interest groups abusing the court system to undo their losses at the ballot box.” As has been explained multiple times on this website and others, however, this claim is rubbish.

First of all, as Dukes explains, “in many cases like voter ID, the Attorney General’s Office was actively defending the state, meaning taxpayers were effectively double-billed by both private and state lawyers.”

What’s more, as was explained in this post last week, Cooper has an ethical and moral obligation to decline to defend indefensible laws. Add to this the fact that Cooper has sometimes actually gone too far in defending outrageous and/or unconstitutional state laws during recent years (click here to read about his unfortunate 2013 decision to go the extra yard defending one of the state’s anti-choice laws) and Berger’ broadside is quickly revealed to be nonsense.

The bottom line truth here is that conservative leaders in North Carolina continue to pass regressive and unconstitutional laws and, thus far, they have funneled enough money to conservative law firms pay the annual salaries of more than 180 schoolteachers to defend them.

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