RALEIGH — North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest announced via social media and through his office on June 25 that he plans to pursue legal action against the administration of Gov. Roy Cooper in what he contends are the implementation of unlawful executive orders for the state.
“Today, I notified Governor Cooper that, as a member of the Council of State, I will be suing his administration for violating the Emergency Management Act. The Governor has repeatedly ignored the law, enacting mandates that selectively target the businesses and citizens of North Carolina without concurrence from a majority of the Council of State,” Forest announced.
Forest drafted a letter to the governor on Thursday, June 25, notifying him of the action and requesting the ability to use independent counsel.
“Before I officially file my suit, the Governor is required by law to approve the use of independent legal counsel,” Forest added. “State agencies in North Carolina are required to use the Attorney General’s office to file lawsuits or else get an exception from the Governor. As the Attorney General has been responsible for drafting the unlawful Executive Orders I’m challenging, I have decided the only path forward is with independent counsel.”
Cooper announced during a media briefing a day earlier that he was extending Phase Two of the state’s reopening until July 17. Phase Two was initially scheduled to expire on June 26. Cooper added a statewide mandate requiring the use of masks or face coverings as part of the phase extension.
“The North Carolina Constitution does not create a unitary executive, but rather disburses executive power throughout the Council of State,” Forest’s letter to the governor states. “Your exercise of these emergency powers without the concurrence of the Council of State makes it impossible for me, as Lieutenant Governor, and all of the other members of the Council of State to fulfill our oaths to uphold the laws of North Carolina.”
According to the letter, Forest requested a response from Gov. Cooper by 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 25. On Monday, June 29, Forest held a press conference in which he further reiterated his intentions to proceed with legal action.
“In my capacity as Lieutenant Governor and a member of the Council of State, I am filing a lawsuit against Governor Roy Cooper challenging the executive orders related to Covid-19 and the process by which they were implemented. This is the only option left on the table as all others have been exhausted. This lawsuit is not interested in the substance of Governor Cooper’s orders. It specifically addresses his lack of authority under the Emergency Management Act to shut down North Carolina without the concurrence of the Council of State. The members of the council of state include, The Governor, The Lieutenant Governor, The Secretary of State, The Attorney General, Treasurer, Commissioner of Labor, Commissioner of Insurance, Commissioner of Agriculture, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the State Auditor,” Forest said. “From the beginning of our country, Americans have rightly been suspicious of executive power. When the Governor is delegated power, it is not absolute. There exists a system of checks and balances which are necessary to ensure that we respect the freedom and will of the people. One person, in the position of governor or secretary of health, is not allowed, under the law, to shut down wide swaths of the economy indefinitely. Governor Cooper has not followed the law... The Governor chose to unilaterally move forward in defiance of the law and the Council of State. To date, he has not sought concurrence on six separate Executive Orders related to shutting down North Carolina. In times of crisis the rule of law is more important than ever. We must do the right thing, in the right way. No one, governor or citizen, is above the rule of law. I am asking the court to invalidate Governor Cooper’s unlawful executive orders that continue to shut down parts of our economy until he receives the concurrence of a majority of the Council of State as required by law.”