RALEIGH The Republican governor’s idea to strip the Democratic elected attorney general of half of his legal staff met with an unsurprising response Wednesday: Bad idea.
Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed budget would transfer 210 attorneys and support staff from the state Department of Justice to the state agencies where they already specialize. The move would put the staffs under the budgetary control and supervision of each of those agencies, rather than the attorney general.
Attorney General Roy Cooper’s spokeswoman said the result would be dispersing the legal staff to 14 different state agencies. That would be inefficient and it would hamper criminal court appeals, harm the state’s participation in cases that often lead to multimillion-dollar settlements, and weaken state agencies’ ability to receive independent legal advice, said Noelle Talley.
“We will work with the governor and the legislature to fix this,” Talley said in a statement.
Budget Director Art Pope said the transferred staff would be those who handle routine legal work. Most of the attorneys and support staff come from the state’s largest agencies: Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation.
Pope noted that agency legal staffs historically were part of each agency until they were moved to the justice department 20-some years ago.
Pope said his staff has discussed the changes with Cooper, and the attorney general had convinced the governor’s budget-writers that some lawyers needed to remain where they are. Those include attorneys assigned to certain law enforcement and to trial and appellate work, Pope said. He said about 234 attorneys and support staff would remain.
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