RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper didn't need the consent of other statewide elected leaders to issue COVID-19 orders shuttering businesses, limiting assemblies and mandating face coverings, state attorneys wrote on Wednesday.
Responding to a legal challenge by Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Cooper said his executive orders were carried out under a state law that allows him to act without the concurrence of the Council of State. The 10-member council includes Cooper, Forest, Attorney General Josh Stein and others. That emergency powers law, according to Cooper's state lawyers, lets him act unilaterally when the crisis extends beyond the ability of local governments to handle.
Cooper “had ample basis to determine that a statewide response is necessary to address the pandemic,” state Department of Justice attorneys wrote in a brief. “Without a statewide approach, hundreds of local governments would be left to take disparate approaches, many of which would be plainly inadequate to contain this disease."
Forest sued Cooper on July 1 and wants Judge James Gale to block enforcement of Cooper's orders. A hearing on Forest's temporary restraining order request is planned next week. Forest is also attempting to unseat Cooper in the November election.
The department lawyers told Gale that granting Forest's request could potentially lift all limits on economic and social activities, leading "to a dramatic spread of the virus, threatening to overwhelm the state’s medical system.” Forest's lawyer can counter Cooper's brief in writing before the hearing.
Several industries and entities have been unsuccessful while suing Cooper over his executive orders since the pandemic began, although a federal judge did strike down church attendance limits the governor set. In a separate case, Gale allowed several dozen bowling alleys to reopen, but the state Supreme Court suspended his decision while it reviews the case.