Governor Pat McCrory’s office has turned down a request from the State Board of Elections to hire three lawyers from the Brooks Pierce law firm to defend the state against a federal lawsuit filed by the Civitas Institute.
Thomas Ziko, a long-time litigator in independent practice, was the only outside council approved.
The board made the request Sunday, given the fact that McCrory’s challenger, Attorney General Roy Cooper, would typically represent the state in such a lawsuit. Cooper currently leads McCrory by roughly 9,000 votes.
McCrory’s general counsel, Bob Stephens, received the request on Sunday afternoon.
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Stephens then notified the state board on Tuesday that three of the four attorneys requested were rejected, after going through the process of determining any conflicts of interest involving the attorneys.
“The request to retain the firm of Brooks Pierce and the other individual Brooks Pierce lawyers referenced in the letter is not approved,” Stephens wrote, without providing his reasoning.
The three lawyers from the Brooks Pierce law firm – Charles Marshall, Craig Schauer and Jessica Thaller-Moran – all have past experience working for Republicans and Republican causes.
The State Board of Elections, who already employees a team of in-house attorneys, said Tuesday that they feel this decision will put the agency at a disadvantage.
“I believe the defense of our agency will be materially prejudiced absent immediate action to secure additional representation in this case,”elections board staff attorney Josh Lawson wrote. Lawson also said he and other in-house attorneys would seek a one-day extension on the court’s deadline.
Civitas’ federal lawsuit challenges the state’s handling of same-day voter registration. More than 90,000 people registered to vote and voted on the same day prior to the general election.
At the heart of Civitas’ case is the fact that there’s not enough time between a same-day voter’s registration and the State Board of Elections counting their ballots for local county boards to verify the applicants’ addresses.