Under the Dome

Boyce pushes case against Cooper

Attorney General Roy Cooper on Feb. 3, 2015.
Attorney General Roy Cooper on Feb. 3, 2015. cseward@newsobserver.com

Raleigh attorney Gene Boyce is trying to resurrect a long-running legal fight with Attorney General Roy Cooper that appeared to have been resolved in 2014.

Boyce on Jan. 5 filed a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court asking a judge, rather than the State Bar, to consider whether Cooper committed misconduct as an attorney nearly 16 years ago. Boyce contends the State Bar has a conflict of interest because Cooper and his deputies represent the organization in legal matters.

The dispute began in 2000, when Cooper and Boyce’s son, Dan Boyce, ran against each other in the general election for attorney general. Cooper, a Democrat, won. Both Boyces sued Cooper, alleging libel in campaign ads. That lawsuit was settled in 2014 with an apology from Cooper for any implication in the ads that the Boyces were not ethical.

Gene Boyce contends in the new lawsuit that there is still an outstanding legal question about whether Cooper should be disciplined for misconduct, since the Bar never took action against him. Their settlement released all civil action claims against Cooper, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor.

“This is a more than decade-old political fight that is a settled matter,” said Morgan Jackson of Nexus Strategies, which is directing Cooper’s gubernatorial campaign. “We always believed that the law and the facts were on our side, and there were North Carolina courts and a unanimous, bipartisan elections board that agreed with us. After 15 years of arguing over a political ad of all things, it’s time to move on.”

Carolina Journal Online, published by the John Locke Foundation, first reported on the lawsuit on Tuesday.