Judge rules in favor of Cooper in COVID-19 shutdown lawsuit

Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 7:04 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2020 at 9:09 PM EDT
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RALEIGH N.C. (WITN) - A judge has denied an injunction sought by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest to reopen parts of the North Carolina economy that have been shut down since spring by Governor Cooper in efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Forest, who’s running against Cooper in the fall election, sued him saying the governor needed consent from the Council of State before issuing statewide emergency orders shutting down bars, gyms, entertainment venues, and other businesses for months during the pandemic.

Cooper’s legal team argued state codes allow him to act unilaterally in an emergency.

“The court finds no statutory language upon which it can base the limitation the lieutenant governor invites – to confine the governor’s exercise of power under the state Emergency Management Act to only a local or regional area,” North Carolina Business Court Senior Judge James Gale wrote in his 31-page ruling. “The language requires the opposite conclusion by suggesting that the governor must act beyond the confines of the local jurisdiction when ‘the scale of the emergency is so great that it exceeds the capability of local authorities to cope with it.’”

Cooper’s office released a statement saying, “Dan Forest’s lawsuit never had teeth and today’s ruling confirms that. It was never more than a desperate tactic to garner attention for his political campaign. His time would be better spent putting the health and safety of North Carolinians before his own political motivations.”

Forest reacted saying, “Today, the court ruled that Governor Cooper has 100% of the power during a declared emergency and can act unilaterally to deny freedoms to every North Carolinian. If Governor Cooper has 100% of the power, then he has 100% of the responsibility. 100% of the responsibility for the disaster handling COVID-19 in nursing homes. 100% of the responsibility for every business that has had to permanently close because of his shutdown orders. 100% of the responsibility for every child that doesn’t get a great education this year. And 100% of the responsibility for the long lines of unemployed workers still waiting to receive funds. Ultimately, the people of North Carolina will make the final decision in November.”

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