In response to John Rustin’s April 1 Point of View “Cooper shirks duty to defend state law”: I note the interesting juxtaposition of his wording when he wrote that “... the attorney general is sworn to represent the state in legal matters.” I believe the more accurate legal wording would be that the attorney general is sworn to represent the state in “matters that are legal.”
As a former attorney with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department, I dealt with attorneys general of various states in the negotiation of state consent decrees. The attorney not only represents the state but also provides the state with advisory opinions regarding the legality of proposed legislation – when asked.
I would submit that the better course for Senate leader Phil Berger and his colleagues in the legislature would have been to consult with the attorney general on the legality of HB2 before it was considered and passed as law.
However, it appears that hubris and politics on the part of the legislature prevented that type of governmental coordination. Thus, the attorney general is now well within the legal rights and the parameters of his duties to indicate that, in his view, HB2 is unconstitutional.
Quite the opposite of Rustin’s contention; Cooper is, in fact, fulfilling the duties of his office by failing to defend a law that would negatively affect the constitutional rights of residents of North Carolina.
Philip A. Guzman