Cooper v. Berger

Decision Date26 January 2018
Docket NumberNo. 52PA17-2,52PA17-2
Citation370 N.C. 392,809 S.E.2d 98
Parties Roy A. COOPER, III, in his official capacity as Governor of The State of North Carolina v. Philip E. BERGER, in his official capacity as President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina Senate; Timothy K. Moore, in his official capacity as Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives; and The State of North Carolina
CourtNorth Carolina Supreme Court

Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, L.L.P., by Daniel F.E. Smith, Jim W. Phillips, Jr., Greensboro, and Eric M. David, for plaintiff-appellant/appellee.

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, Raleigh, by D. Martin Warf and Noah H. Huffstetler, III, for legislator defendant-appellants/appellees.

Joshua H. Stein, Attorney General, by Alexander McC. Peters, Senior Deputy Attorney General, for defendant-appellee State of North Carolina.

Poyner Spruill LLP, Raleigh, by Andrew H. Erteschik, for Brennan Center for Justice at N.Y.U. School of Law and Democracy North Carolina, amici curiae.

Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson, P.A., by John R. Wester, Charlotte, J. Dickson Phillips, III, Chapel Hill, Adam K. Doerr, and Kevin Crandall, Charlotte, for James B. Hunt, Jr., and Burley B. Mitchell, Jr., amici curiae.

ERVIN, Justice.

On 8 November 2016, plaintiff Roy A. Cooper, III, was elected Governor of the State of North Carolina for a four-year term office commencing on 1 January 2017. On 16 December, 2016, the General Assembly enacted Senate Bill 4 and House Bill 17, which abolished the existing State Board of Elections and the existing State Ethics Commission; created a new Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement; and appointed the existing members of the State Ethics Commission to serve as the members of the Bipartisan State Board. The legislation in question was signed into law by former Governor Patrick L. McCrory on 16 December 2016. On 17 March 2017, a three-judge panel of the Superior Court, Wake County, convened pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 1-267.1(b1), determined that the legislation in question violated the separation-of-powers provisions of the North Carolina Constitution by unconstitutionally impinging upon the Governor's ability to faithfully execute the laws. Cooper v. Berger , No. 16 CVS 15636, 2017 WL 1433245 (N.C. Super. Ct. Wake County, Mar. 17, 2017).

On 25 April 2017, Chapter 6 of the 2017 North Carolina Session Laws became law notwithstanding the Governor's veto. See Act of Apr. 11, 2017, ch. 6, 2017-2 N.C. Adv. Legis. Serv. 21 (LexisNexis).1 Session Law 2017-6 was captioned

AN ACT TO REPEAL G.S. 126-5(D)(2C), AS ENACTED BY S.L. 2016-126; TO REPEAL PART I OF S.L. 2016-125; AND TO CONSOLIDATE THE FUNCTIONS OF ELECTIONS, CAMPAIGN FINANCE, LOBBYING, AND ETHICS UNDER
ONE QUASI-JUDICIAL AND REGULATORY AGENCY BY CREATING THE NORTH CAROLINA BIPARTISAN STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS AND ETHICS ENFORCEMENT.

The newly-enacted legislation provided, in pertinent part, that:

Article 1.
Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.
§ 163A-1. Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement established.
There is established the Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, referred to as the State Board in this Chapter.
§ 163A-2. Membership.
(a) The State Board shall consist of eight individuals registered to vote in North Carolina, appointed by the Governor, four of whom shall be of the political party with the highest number of registered affiliates and four of whom shall be of the political party with the second highest number of registered affiliates, as reflected by the latest registration statistics published by the State Board. The Governor shall appoint four members each from a list of six nominees submitted by the State party chair of the two political parties with the highest number of registered affiliates, as reflected by the latest registration statistics published by the State Board.
....
(c) Members shall be removed by the Governor from the State Board only for misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance. Violation of G.S. § 163A-3(d) shall be considered nonfeasance.
....
(f) At the first meeting in May, the State Board shall organize by electing one of its members chair and one of its members vice-chair, each to serve a two-year term as such. In 2017 and every four years thereafter, the chair shall be a member of the political party with the highest number of registered affiliates, ... and the vice-chair a member of the political party with the second highest number of registered affiliates. In 2019 and every year four years thereafter, the chair shall be a member of the political party with the second highest number of registered affiliates, as reflected by the latest registration statistics published by the State Board, and the vice-chair a member of the political party with the highest number of registered affiliates.
....
§ 163A-3. Meetings; quorum; majority.
....
(c) Unless otherwise specified in this Chapter, an affirmative vote of at least five members of the State Board shall be required for all actions by the State Board.
....
§ 163A-5. Independent agency, staff, and offices.
(a) The State Board shall be and remain an independent regulatory and quasi-judicial agency and shall not be placed within any principal administrative department. The State Board shall exercise its statutory powers, duties, functions, and authority and shall have all powers and duties conferred upon the heads of principal departments under G.S. 143B-10.
....
§ 163A-6. Executive Director of the State Board.
(a) There is hereby created the position of Executive Director of the State Board, who shall perform all duties imposed by statute and such duties as may be assigned by the State Board.
(b) The State Board shall appoint an Executive Director for a term of two years with compensation to be determined by the Office of State Human Resources. The Executive Director shall serve beginning May 15 after the first meeting held after new appointments to the State Board are made, unless removed for cause, until a successor is appointed. In the event of a vacancy, the vacancy shall be filled for the remainder of the term. (c) The Executive Director shall be responsible for staffing, administration, and execution of the State Board's decisions and orders and shall perform such other responsibilities as may be assigned by the State Board.
(d) The Executive Director shall be the chief State elections official.
....
§ 163-30. County boards of elections; appointments; terms of office; qualifications; vacancies; oath of office; instructional meetings.
In every county of the State there shall be a county board of elections, to consist of four persons of good moral character who are registered voters in the county in which they are to act. Two of the members of the county board of elections shall be of the political party with the highest number of registered affiliates, and two shall be of the political party with the second highest number of registered affiliates, as reflected by the latest registration statistics published by the State Board. In 2017, members of county boards of elections shall be appointed by the State Board.... In 2019, members of county boards of elections shall be appointed by the State Board on the last Tuesday in June, and every two years thereafter, and their terms of office shall continue for two years from the specified date of appointment and until their successors are appointed and qualified.
....
The State chair of each political party shall have the right to recommend to the State Board three registered voters in each county for appointment to the board of elections for that county. If such recommendations are received by the Board 15 or more days before the last Tuesday in June 2017 and each two years thereafter, it shall be the duty of the State Board to appoint the county boards from the names thus recommended....
....
At the first meeting in July annually, the county boards shall organize by electing one of its members chair and one of its members vice-chair, each to serve a one-year term as such. In the odd-numbered year, the chair shall be a member of the political party with the highest number of registered affiliates, as reflected by the latest registration statistics published by the State Board, and the vice-chair a member of the political party with the second highest number of registered affiliates. In the even-numbered year, the chair shall be a member of the political party with the second highest number of registered affiliates, as reflected by the latest registration statistics published by the State Board, and the vice-chair a member of the political party with the highest number of registered affiliates.
....
§ 163-31. Meetings of county boards of elections; quorum; majority; minutes.
... Three members shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of board business. Except where required by law to act unanimously, a majority vote for action of the board shall require three of the four members.
....
SECTION 9. Notwithstanding G.S. 163A-2, as enacted by Section 4 of this act, the chairs of the two political parties shall submit a list of names to the Governor ..., and the Governor shall make appointments from those lists.... The State chairs of the two political parties shall not nominate, and the Governor shall not appoint, any individual who has served two or more full consecutive terms on the State Board of Elections or State Ethics Commission, as of April 30, 2017.
SECTION 10. Notwithstanding G.S. 163A-2(f) and (g), as enacted by Section 4 of this act, the Governor shall appoint a member of the State Board to serve as chair, a member to serve as vice-chair, and a member to serve as secretary of the State Board until its first meeting in May 2019, at which time the State Board shall select its chair and vice-chair in accordance with G.S. 163A-2(f) and select a secretary in accordance with G.S. 163A-2(g).
.... Section 17. Notwithstanding G.S. 163A-6, the Bipartisan
...

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24 cases
  • Harper v. Hall
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court
    • February 14, 2022
    ...of Rights limit the General Assembly's power to apportion districts under article II. It is thus analogous to Cooper v. Berger , 370 N.C. 392, 809 S.E.2d 98 (2018), in that it "involves a conflict between two competing constitutional provisions," and it "involves an issue of constitutional ......
  • State v. Strudwick
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court
    • October 29, 2021
    ...831 S.E.2d 542 (quoting first from State v. Romano , 369 N.C. 678, 685, 800 S.E.2d 644 (2017), then second from Cooper v. Berger , 370 N.C. 392, 413, 809 S.E.2d 98 (2018) ) (extraneity omitted). It is the burden of the proponent of a finding of facial unconstitutionality to prove beyond a r......
  • State v. Hilton
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court
    • September 24, 2021
    ...beyond reasonable doubt." Grady III , 372 N.C. at 522, 831 S.E.2d at 553 (alteration omitted) (quoting Cooper v. Berger , 370 N.C. 392, 413, 809 S.E.2d 98, 111 (2018) ). ¶ 14 The Supreme Court has held that the imposition of SBM pursuant to North Carolina's SBM program effects a Fourth Amen......
  • Harper v. Hall
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court
    • February 14, 2022
    ...our Declaration of Rights limit the General Assembly's power to apportion districts under article II. It is thus analogous to Cooper v. Berger, 370 N.C. 392 (2018), in that "involves a conflict between two competing constitutional provisions," and it "involves an issue of constitutional int......
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1 books & journal articles
  • THE DEMOCRACY PRINCIPLE IN STATE CONSTITUTIONS.
    • United States
    • March 1, 2021
    .../505872501/north-carolina-governor-signs-law-limiting-power-of-his-successor [https:// perma.cc/3ZPF-MPBC]. (286.) Cooper v. Berger, 809 S.E.2d 98,112-14 (N.C. (287.) See infra Section III.B. (288.) See infra Section III.C. (289.) See supra Section I.A; cf. GARDNER, supra note 35 (endorsing......

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