Lt. Gov. Dan Forest sues Gov. Roy Cooper over COVID-19 executive order process

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest sues Gov. Roy Cooper over COVID-19 executive order process

RALEIGH — In a highly unusual move, the Republican lieutenant governor of North Carolina filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Democratic governor of the state.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is suing Gov. Roy Cooper over how six executive orders were issued related to COVID-19.

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"This lawsuit is not interested in the substance of Gov. Cooper's orders," Forest said. "It specifically addresses his lack of authority under the Emergency Management Act to shut down North Council without the concurrence of the Council of State."

It started March 17 when Cooper ordered bars and restaurants in the state to close their dining rooms. Cooper made the call without the concurrence of the Council of State. A total of six executive orders have been issued this way.

The Council of State is made up of 10 statewide elected officials, six of them are Republican:

  • Roy Cooper, Governor (D)
  • Dan Forest, Lt. Governor (R)
  • Josh Stein, Attorney General (D)
  • Steve Troxler, Agriculture Commissioner (R)
  • Mike Causey, Insurance Commissioner (R)
  • Elaine Marshall, Secretary of State (D)
  • Cherie Berry, Secretary of Labor (R)
  • Beth Wood, Auditor (D)
  • Dale Folwell, Treasurer (R)
  • Mark Johnson, Superintendent of Public Instruction (R)

Forest's argument is that since the governor didn't get most of the council's approval and the orders should be struck down.

"I am asking the court to invalidate the governor's executive orders that continue to shut down large parts of the economy until he receives the concurrence of the majority of the Council of State as required by law," he said.

A spokesperson for the governor defended the executive order process.

"As states like Florida and Texas backtrack after rushing re-opening and surging new cases, Gov. Cooper will continue to be guided by science and the law as he works every day with public health experts to keep North Carolinians safe," said Dory MacMillan, press secretary for Cooper. "Partisan politics must be put aside when responding to COVID-19."

Political expert Michael Bitzer said it is a unique lawsuit with not a lot of precedent. He said it will get deep in the weeds.

"I think it is going to come down to the courts trying to figure out where the best balance is in a very trying and unprecedented time like a COVID pandemic in relation to what the authority of the governor is," Bitzer said.

Forest filed the lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court.

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