The power struggle between Gov. Roy Cooper and legislative leaders continued Friday when he filed another lawsuit accusing them of writing laws that impede on his powers.
Cooper alleges in the suit that the bill violates the North Carolina Constitution because it shortens the terms of three Court of Appeals seats to fewer than eight years.
HB239 also purports to limit Cooper’s power to make vacancy appointments to the bench, the suit states. Legislators claimed the workload of the court had been reduced, “but that is an obvious pretext without any factual basis.”
“Upon information and belief, the true purpose was to prevent the Governor from having the ability to fill three vacancy appointments in the next three years for seats in which incumbent judges will reach the statutorily mandated retirement age,” the suit states.
Cooper is also challenging part of Senate Bill 4, which was passed during a special session in December. He alleges that part of the law allowed former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory to make unconstitutional appointments to the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC).
The lawsuit explains further:
“On December 16,2016, the day Session Law 2016- 125 was signed into law, Governor McCrory appointed [Yolanda] Stith, the spouse of his chief of staff, to fill an already-existing vacancy on the NCIC. The vacant seat on the NCIC had a term scheduled to end on April 30, 2019. See N.C. House Joint Resolution 978 (April 27, 2016). Stith’s appointment was approved by Defendants on the same day. See N.C. House Joint Resolution 24 (December 16, 2016).
Accordingly, as soon as the vacancy on the Industrial Commission was filled — for a nine-year term running through April 30, 2025 — the language of Section 97-77(al) reverted to its original form. As with the appointments prior to this one, any future vacancies on the NCIC will be filled by an appointment only for the remainder of the unexpired term.
Thus, the net result of the NCIC Privilege is that Section 97-77 (al) was left unchanged, but Stith — and, by statutory design, only Stith — received the exclusive privilege of a nme-year term on the Industrial Commission valued at more than $1 million.”
Cooper said the law violates the Separation of Powers clause of the Constitution.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s spokeswoman, Amy Auth, told the News & Observer that the lawsuit only benefits Cooper.
“In his State of the State Address, Gov. Roy Cooper said, ‘In Raleigh, partisan battles, power struggles and lawsuits might grab the headlines, but we have to work together where we can, to look beyond ourselves to see what’s right for the state, regardless of who’s in power’ — so we don’t understand why he feels suing three times in less than six months is a good way to accomplish that goal,” she told the newspaper.