North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s (R) office on Tuesday rejected three of the four outside lawyers that the state board of elections sought to hire to defend the board in a lawsuit regarding same-day registration.
The rejection from McCrory’s general counsel will delay the trial originally set for Friday for a lawsuit from a conservative group demanding that the elections board delay certifying the vote until the board has completed a lengthy process to verify the registrations of voters who registered on the same day they voted.
The state elections board submitted a request to hire outside lawyers since state Attorney General Roy Cooper, who would typically defend the board, is locked in a contested race for governor with McCrory. McCrory has refused to concede the race and has alleged widespread voter fraud in the state, though the state election board effectively dismissed most of Republicans’ complaints about alleged voter fraud on Monday.
McCrory’s general counsel, Bob Stephens, accepted the state board’s request to hire lawyer Thomas Ziko, but rejected the request to hire three attorneys with the Brooks Pierce law firm, according to WRAL. Stephens rejected the three lawyers after asking to check for any conflicts of interest, according to the News and Observer. Stephens did not say why he rejected the three lawyers from Brooks Pierce.
“The notification we received gives no legal basis for the denial of the Brooks Pierce lawyers,” Joshua Malcolm, a Democratic member of the state board of elections, told WRAL.
The News and Observer noted that a lawyer at Brooks Pierce, Jim Phillips, is a co-chairman of Cooper’s transition team, but Phillips was not one of the three attorneys that the state board sought to hire.
Kim Strach, the director of the state elections board, told the News and Observer that “no legal conflict exists” with the lawyers from Brooks Pierce.
“The attorneys from Brooks Pierce chosen to represent the State Board are well-versed in election laws in North Carolina. The board received assurance that appropriate firewalls would be erected to ensure Jim Phillips was screened from any matters related to this representation,” she said.
Josh Lawson, the state board’s staff attorney, warned that the rejection of outside attorneys could put the state board at a disadvantage in the case.
“I believe the defense of our agency will be materially prejudiced absent immediate action to secure additional representation in this case,” Lawson wrote in a letter to the state elections board.
Lawson asked for a one-day extension for the board to submit its response, and U.S. District Court Judge James Dever granted the extension on Wednesday. The hearing was moved to Dec. 8.