Roy Cooper at 11:21

I got another email from Roy Cooper today. This one came at 11:21 am, a time when most people with real jobs are busy working. The subject line said "An end and a beginning." Here's the text:

September 1st marked the end of an innovative North Carolina program to encourage 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote. It's demise was part of the draconian elections overhaul passed by the legislature and signed by the governor last month that makes it harder for North Carolinians to register and vote.

What's more, the new law opens the door to more corporate money into the elections system, limits disclosures of contributions, prevents people from casting a provisional ballot when they go to the wrong precinct and the list goes on.

But the end of this program can be the beginning of even greater efforts to get young people involved in democracy. Many of them are upset about ballot boxes being removed from their college campus and challenges to their residency. I've talked to numerous students and young professionals and they are ready to engage their peers.

There are committed organizations that are working hard to register young people despite these new rules. High school and college groups are taking action. Let's help them with our time, encouragement, and financial support.

The ability to change our state's course and move North Carolina forward will depend on laying the groundwork right now.

In order to stay up to date on these opportunities and others, follow me on Twitter @RoyCooperNC and like my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/roycoopernc

Thanks for all of your efforts.

Instead of happy talk, I'd like to see Mr. Cooper deliver a full-frontal challenge to the Monster Voter Suppression legislation passed by the General Assembly. He's the Attorney General, for heaven's sake. He's sworn to defend the North Carolina Constitution.

Comments

Barking dogs...

Cooper must start baring his teeth now, if he hopes to sit in the Governor's chair. But I can't determine if he has the authority to launch into the legalities on his own, or, if such challenges have to come up through the DA's. Does anyone know for sure?

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"Let's not be too rough on our own ignorance; it's what makes America great!" - Frank Zappa (6/29/1988)

I read somewhere recently

that Cooper said he would have to defend VoterID in court, but I can't find the quote right now. I'll keep looking, but if it is true, his continual attacks, however appealing they may sound, are bound to present some arguable legal quandaries.

Yeah, Roy sure is between a rock and a hard place

From the Attorney General's web site:

As head of the North Carolina Department of Justice, the Attorney General provides legal representation and advice to all state government departments, agencies and commissions. The Attorney General also provides legal opinions at the request of other public officials and handles all criminal appeals from state trial courts.

When the state's public interests are at stake, the Attorney General can take legal action on behalf of North Carolina's citizens.

Constitutionally, he is obligated to defend the madness of the jokers on Jones St. He doesn't have to mount a very enthusiastic defense, though, and that is why the TillBerger essentially made themselves Coopers' “law partners”.

On the other hand, he is also obligated to take legal action on behalf of North Carolina's citizens when the state's public interests are at stake. The public clearly does not favor any provisions of the new suppression laws other then the ID requirement. So what's a AG to do?

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"Let's not be too rough on our own ignorance; it's what makes America great!" - Frank Zappa (6/29/1988)

Not a hard place

Unless you're worried about your career.

You've zeroed in on the two relevant portions of the statutes, which are seemingly contradictory. One one hand, you have to defend the state's lawmakers. On the other, you have to defend the Constitution.

From where I sit, it's a no-brainer.

Enthusiasm

I realize this is going to sound naïve, but...

If Roy is bound by the NC Constitution (or other legal mandates) to defend this law, however tasteless the job would be, he or whoever he directs to do the job needs to do it right. And if that means efforts to block the law fail, then that's what we get for putting these hammerheads into office in the first place.

Aside from being unethical, a half-hearted or intentionally self-destructive legal approach would not only tarnish Roy Cooper and his staff, it would erode the integrity of the office of Attorney General in specific, and maybe even the NC DOJ in general.

Now, if he does have an "out", he should take it. I believe there is precedent in other states, but they may have had different statutes governing the office:

NC § 114-2. Duties.

It shall be the duty of the Attorney General:

(1) To defend all actions in the appellate division in which the State shall be interested, or a party, and to appear for the State in any other court or tribunal in any cause or matter, civil or criminal, in which the State may be a party or interested.

(2) To represent all State departments, agencies, institutions, commissions, bureaus or other organized activities of the State which receive support in whole or in part from the State.

I don't see much leeway there.

Leeway

A couple of lines below what you excerpted:

To intervene, when he deems it to be advisable in the public interest, in proceedings before any courts, regulatory officers, agencies and bodies, both State and federal, in a representative capacity for and on behalf of the using and consuming public of this State. He shall also have the authority to institute and originate proceedings before such courts, officers, agencies or bodies and shall have authority to appear before agencies on behalf of the State and its agencies and citizens in all matters affecting the public interest.

Yeah, I saw that

I have no doubt in my mind it's in the public's best interest that this law be struck down. You know, if Roy wrote a legal opinion stating as much, it might provide the grounds for him to recuse himself from defending this law.

The question here is:

Is he restricted to defending the people only against outside forces, like corporations violating the law, or can he defend the people against the General Assembly itself, and apparently unconstitutional laws? Can he do that? If it comes into court as part of a class action or criminal complaint, he must defend the State.

But what if, in his opinion, the law itself is unconstitutional? Can he challenge it in any way, the same way a civil or criminal defendant does, before the Court, with himself representing the people, against the General Assembly and its law?

He can and he can't

Therein lies the rub.

I got arrested in Raleigh on Moral Monday for breaking a law I don't believe is valid. I will be going to court and fighting for as long as the money holds out.

The dilemma facing the AG is a moral issue, not just a legal issue.

It's not an ethics problem at all.

If he or Willoughby were to make a half hearted attempt to prosecute the trespassing charges, that would be an ethical violation, a moral one.

I'm asking a legal question. Can he charge the GA with violating the letter of the NC Constitution? Does he have to wait until someone else does? Because then, legally he has to defend the State. This question is, can the AG of the State itself charge that the GA's laws are unconstitutional, and take them to court as defendants?

Ethics! We don't need no stinking ethics!

Everything you wrote is absolutely reasonable. But the ethics underpinning the whole debate is twisted in a giant knot. And with the approval ratings of the legislature and governor in the toilet, I believe it likely that the reputation of Cooper and his office would come out ahead if the public sees him actively pushing back on our behalf. But he's got to strike while the iron is hot.

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"Let's not be too rough on our own ignorance; it's what makes America great!" - Frank Zappa (6/29/1988)

Other unconstitutional concerns.

Maybe it's just me, but I think at least one other major bit of work done by the General Assembly recently past is also blatantly unconstitutional under the NC Constitution. Or not, I am no lawyer. But here it is:

STATE CONSTITUTION EDUCATION ARTICLE
“Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools, libraries, and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” N.C. Const. art. IX, § 1.

“The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools, which shall be maintained at least nine months in every year, and wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.” N.C. Const. art. IX, § 2.

“The people have a right to the privilege of education, and it is the duty of the state to guard and maintain that right.” N.C. Const. art. I, § 15.

People can argue whether they have done or failed the first part. But that second part clearly says 'public schools' not anything about providing "by taxation and otherwise" for private schools, which vouchers certainly do and with taxpayer money.

Before Roy Cooper decides to act like a candidate for Governor, he needs to finish being what he already is, the best AG North Carolina has had in living memory. He needs to figure out what those ethical parameters are, and look after the interests of the people. That is his job. We have no one else to do it instead, it is Roy Cooper or it doesn't happen.

(I never thought practicing lawyers made good governors, ever, especially former prosecutors. Bad mindset for the job, just saying)

Yes.

Former prosecutor. Plays well on the right, though.

Yes, it plays well on the center, too.

Yes, it plays well on the right to be governed by former prosecutors. Wretched sentiments.

But wouldn't it be great if our current Attorney General used his office to actually charge the General Assembly with violating the NC Constitution? If he is charged with defending we, the people, then it would seem that he not only can, but that he should should.

Wouldn't that be just so cool?

It would be cool

as in when hell freezes over.

:)

Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the AG will step up and send the message that needs sending to the General Assembly and to the people of North Carolina: "The legislature has over-reached with dire consequences. Someone has to stop their maniacal course. That someone is me."

Warning

To anyone reading this from afar, it's clear that none of us are expert in this matter. But the truth is, citizens shouldn't have to be expert to understand what laws and statutes mean.

If you are a person who knows about this, why not chime in?

And if you are Roy Cooper, maybe you could come by and explain the law to us? I'm serious. It would be really good for you to meet some of us. We don't bite.

That's a great idea

I swear I remember Roy coming here before, even if it was just to comment and not post a diary. Am I losing it in my old age?