It’s peculiar: My memory is far from perfect but I can’t recall either Jesse Helms or Jim Hunt spending taxpayers’ money to sue another politician – but these days it happens all the time: We’ve got packed courtrooms where one group of government lawyers are battling another group of government lawyers in front of judges all paid by taxpayers.
In one lawsuit Governor Cooper’s government paid lawyers are arguing with the General Assembly’s government paid lawyers over who gets to appoint the Elections Board. In another lawsuit two groups of lawyers are arguing over whether the State Senate gets to confirm Governor Cooper’s Cabinet Appointments. And, up in Washington, there’s a lawsuit that takes the cake.
Awhile back Republican legislators passed a law to require Voter IDs. Democratic federal judges threw that law out. And a team of government paid lawyers (for Governor McCrory) headed to the Supreme Court to appeal.
Then Roy Copper and Josh Stein were elected and, suddenly, Governor McCrory’s lawyers found themselves working for Roy and Josh. Who decided to drop the appeal.
At that moment it looked like one group of government lawyers were about to be out of business but then the General Assembly stepped in, hired another team of lawyers, and said the legislature should replace Cooper and Stein in the case.
That didn’t sit well with Attorney General Stein who pointed out that the Constitution says the Attorney General and the Governor are supposed to represent the state in court – not the legislature.
The General Assembly’s lawyers pooh-pooed that idea then told the Supreme Court that Stein ought to be removed from the case because he had conflict of interest.
Stein shot back that even if – for some reason he couldn’t fathom – the General Assembly had a right to be in the case, legislators couldn’t go out and hire and pay their own lawyers with state money. Hiring lawyers and arguing cases was the Attorney General’s job under the Constitution so he, Stein, would have to represent the legislators.
We had Republican lawyers trying to kick Democrats out of the case. And Democratic lawyers arguing Republicans had no place in the case and adding that, even if they did, the Republicans had to be represented by the Democratic Attorney General.
It’s one more example of politics rolling downhill. But, ironically, this one time relief may be around the corner: If the General Assembly wins we’ll be shed of the Democrat’s lawyers. And if Josh Stein wins we’ll be shed of all the lawyers.