Will Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vigorously defend the state of North Carolina from legal challenges over laws he doesn’t agree with? Carolina Journal’s Dan Way reports on a provision passed by state legislators, led by House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam of Wake County, to ensure that if Cooper doesn’t, others can intervene to ensure a vigorous defense. Groups allied with Democrats have vowed to sue.

Lawsuits are likely in a host of areas, from school choice to election reform to abortion. Cooper — whose office traditionally represents the state in such litigation — has expressed his opposition to some of the new laws publicly. Stam says the state needs a legal backstop.

“I don’t think it’s a lack of confidence in Cooper personally,” said Stam, who pushed to add the standing-to-intervene language in Senate Bill 473, giving the speaker of the House and the Senate president pro tem the authority to join a lawsuit. “But on these high-profile [cases] that he has actually publicly attacked, you wonder.”

One instance Stam cited was a letter Cooper sent July 26 to Gov. Pat McCrory opposing the election reforms inHouse Bill 589, such as fewer early voting days and requiring Voter ID. Cooper called it “regressive legislation,” and urged the governor to veto the bill. 

“You may want to have the [General] Assembly have the option of presenting the case in a more positive light,” an option enjoyed by legislatures in other states, Stam said.

“The pro-life bill (Senate Bill 353), although it is clearly, in my opinion, constitutional, I mean most every significant provision of it has already been upheld by the courts — [Cooper] attacked it as unconstitutional,” Stam said of a bill passed late in the session adding new restrictions on abortion clinics.

“So how does he defend a bill in court when a judge can just read back to him his statement that it was unconstitutional?” Stam said. 

Stay tuned.