by Dan Way
It chafes at those of us who have toiled in the ink pits our whole career to witness the accuracy bar lowered, if not missing all together, in reporting. It is especially grating when substandard work cements social mind sets and casts political narratives in stone.
An example of rush-to-judgment punditry and reporting surfaced in recent days as some attempted to connote as fringe policy legislation passed by the General Assembly that empowers the Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tem to intervene jointly to defend against lawsuits challenging state laws and provisions of the state constitution. They would be additional litigants, not replacements for the attorney general, an important distinction.
But, according to an impressively researched memo released today by the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law, it is clear that many states have similar laws. They may vary in scope and detail, as many laws take into consideration the needs and political will of their individual states, but they are spread upon the statutes nonetheless. And North Carolina already permits the governor or gubernatorially authorized state officials to employ special counsel when the attorney general finds it impracticable, the memo states.
“North Carolina is among a significant minority of other states in providing a vehicle for representation by counsel other than the Attorney General. However, unlike most other states, North Carolina has provided that option to both the Governor and the leadership of the General Assembly,” said Jeanette Doran, executive director and general counsel of NCICL, who authored the memo.
Indeed, Doran notes, about one-third of all states have provided for such an option as needs arise.
North Carolina’s General Assembly views Senate Bill 473 as a safeguard for current and future legislatures that pass laws only to have attorneys general choose for partisan political or personal reasons not to defend them in court, or to provide less than best efforts during litigation. And it is not alone in statutorily authorizing parties other than the state attorney general to intervene to defend the state as additional litigants.