North Carolina Election Chaos Continues
In an emergency session held Sunday, November 27th 2016, the NC State Board of Election moved to hire the Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard law firm to defend them in the current election recount. But, the firm has strong ties to Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Earlier this month, Roy Cooper announced his transition team would include Kristi Jones and Jim Phillips who are members of Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard law firm. Ms. Jones also served at the NC Department of Justice for over 10 years as Cooper’s Chief of Staff.
A History of Controversy
In 2004, Cooper’s campaign was accused by a retired Raleigh attorney, Bernard Harrell, of not properly reporting in-kind campaign contributions stemming from a 2000 elections lawsuit for Defamation by Eugene Boyce. On the list of those alleged contributions were three attorneys from Pierce Brooks.
The article also notes that Harrell claimed Cooper hired two of the firms team to provide services to the state while they also were providing in-kind contributions to Cooper’s campaign.
Carolina Journal reported:
The individual lawyers and law firms providing in-kind serves listed by Harrell were: Jim W. Phillips, David Kushner, and Henry E. Frye of Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, LLP in Greensboro; Allison Vanlaningham, James G. Exum, and Alan W. Duncan of Smith, Moore LLP in Greensboro; and Walter E. Dellinger, Matt Shores, and Pam Harris of O’Melveny & Meyers, LLP in Washington, D.C.
In addition, Harrell claimed in the letter that Cooper hired two of the above law firms to represent the state while those firms or their attorneys were providing the in-kind legal services to his campaign committee.
Shortly after Harrell’s complaint, the Cooper campaign publicly denied the charge and stated “The legal costs in this case [Boyce v. Cooper] are being paid by private insurance.” It appears that no further action was taken by the Board of Elections.
Mr. Cooper lost eight times with appeals in the marathon 14 year lawsuit with the Boyce family, having to eventually pay a $75,000 settlement and issue an apology. However, Cooper is currently facing ethics violation charges with the NC Bar, stemming from that same lawsuit. Although Cooper won the initial suit in May of this year, the case is up for appeal (pg. 13).
The firm has litigated on behalf of the state but has also sued the state. In 2015, Brooks Pierce joined the Southern Coalition for Justice and six private citizens in a suit against the city of Greensboro over redistricting.
Further, In our review of contributions data reported by the NC Board of Elections for both Cooper and McCrory show a significant disparity in the quantity and size of donations by members of the firm.
Filings for Roy Cooper shows that 23 separate individuals listing their employer as Brooks Pierce donated to his campaign as of 3rd quarter 2016, totaling $31,015.19. Filings for the McCrory campaign showed only one general contribution from Brooks Pierce for a total of $6,500.
It is worth noting that none of the prospective attorneys were donors to either campaign according to the Board of Elections records. Furthermore all the attorneys were reportedly cleared from conflicts by the firm.
A Stunning Rejection
The NC State Board of Elections requested Charles Marshall, Craig Schauer, and Jessica Thaller-Moran, and Thomas Ziko as co-counsel. However, the State’s General Council, Bob Stevens, quickly rejected the offer (letter below).
It appears that we will head into December before the fate of the Governor’s election is finalized.