N.C. Supreme Court Rejects Gov. Cooper’s Attempt to Control Appropriations

Raleigh, N.C. — The N.C. Supreme Court, in a 6–1 decision, upheld every lower court’s decision to reject Gov. Roy Cooper’s attempt to obtain some control over state appropriations. The near-unanimous decision means that ten judges have now reaffirmed the longheld principle that the Constitution clearly and unambiguously vests the power of the purse with the legislature, not the executive branch.

Justice Anita Earls was the lone dissenter. Attorney General Josh Stein filed an amicus brief supporting the losing unconstitutional arguments to expand his and the Governor’s powers.

Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Burke), who co-chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, “The N.C. Supreme Court’s well-reasoned decision in this matter was firmly grounded in the text of the Constitution and years of precedent.

“It’s unfortunate that Attorney General Stein valued expansion of executive power over the rule of law. Most first-year law students could look at the plain text of the Constitution and previous rulings from the Supreme Court and conclude that the Attorney General’s preferred outcome would be a grave violation of basic legal principles. The law, not politics, should come first in our state’s top law enforcement office.”

The case decided today involves whether the legislative or executive branch has the legal authority to appropriate three obscure federal block grants.

All funds controlled by the State of North Carolina, including federal block grants, go through the State treasury. The N.C. Constitution says, “No money shall be drawn from the State treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law.” The Constitution provides that only the legislature can enact laws.

The N.C. Supreme Court previously ruled that the Constitution “state[s] in language no man can misunderstand that the legislative power is supreme over the public purse” (State v. Davis).

This case was heard at the trial level by a judge who ruled against Gov. Cooper.

The case was then heard at the N.C. Court of Appeals by a three-judge panel. The three-judge panel unanimously ruled against Gov. Cooper and Attorney General Stein, and the decision was written by a Democratic judge.

The Democrat-dominated state Supreme Court then took the case and five of the six Democrats on the court ruled against Gov. Cooper and Attorney General Stein.

The court wrote in its decision, “After a careful review of the relevant legal authorities, we have been unable to find any provision of the North Carolina State Constitution that creates a category of money that might possibly include the federal block grant monies that lies outside the State treasury or the General Assembly’s appropriation authority.”

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