After more than a year of litigation, the N.C. Supreme Court handed down a victory to Gov. Pat McCrory over the state legislature in its decision on Friday.
The Court ruled that the N.C. General Assembly overstepped its boundaries by giving itself the power to appoint the majority of the members of three environmental commissions.
“We appreciate the hard work of the Supreme Court to resolve a constitutional question that needed to be answered,” McCrory said in a statement.
McCrory — along with former state governors Jim Martin and Jim Hunt — sued Speaker of the House Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and President Pro Tempore of the Senate Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, in 2014.
While the legislature has the ability to create state commissions, the power to appoint the commission’s members lies with the governor, said John Wester, the attorney for McCrory, Martin and Hunt.
“The Supreme Court has held that the legislature violated the separation of powers clause in our state constitution when it created and vested itself with control of three government commissions which would carry out laws the legislature passed,” he said. “This intruded upon the governor’s duty to faithfully execute the laws.”
Chief Justice Mark Martin’s majority opinion will leave the door open to further legal challenges, as it did not establish a definitive ruling on the separation of appointment powers.
Elliot Engstrom, lead counsel for the Center of Law and Freedom at the Civitas Institute, a right-leaning think tank in Raleigh, said the legislature could continue to test the boundaries of that separation.
“Anytime the legislature is claiming a power for itself that arguably is an executive power, I think that that could be described as a power grab,” he said. “The fact that both sides litigated it tells you they both thought they were right.”