Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper's Mounting Lawsuits Over COVID Handling

Gov. Cooper is facing a lawsuit from more than two dozen media outlets...

A coalition of more than two dozen media outlets including The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer filed a lawsuit on Thursday seeking the release of a list of records related to COVID-19 that the state had, so far, refused to provide.

The lawsuit names as defendants Gov. Roy Cooper and two of his Cabinet secretaries, Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Erik Hooks, secretary of the Department of Public Safety.

The complaint lists a total of 26 outstanding records requests — nine to DPS and 17 to DHHS — submitted by media outlets for records that could be helpful in reporting on COVID-19. All but one of the requests were submitted since the pandemic began.

Among the records listed in the lawsuit are: the state’s database of COVID-19 cases, with personal identifying information removed; the database maintained by the state office of Emergency Management to track requests for personal protective equipment and other supplies by hospitals and local governments; copies of reports of prison inspections conducted during the pandemic; communication between officials at DPS and DHHS; and communication from DHHS officials to local health departments.

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Jim Thomas, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has said in a previous interview regarding DHHS’s refusal to release information that transparency is critical during a public health crisis.

“One of the things that’s most important to the execution of public health is trust,” Thomas said in an interview Thursday. “Trust in the public to work with the government in what it’s saying needs to be done. Ours is not an autocratic society. We don’t force people to do things. There’s a lot of voluntary activity that’s involved.”

But it's more than just media outlets suing Gov. Cooper. Per the North State Journal

Cooper is facing a growing list of lawsuits being filed in an effort to halt his “phase two” order keeping certain businesses closed and restricting others. So far, the governor has been sued by churcheshair salons, multiple gym owners, adult entertainers, trampoline parks, bowling alleys.

As of today, the North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association has joined the list.

“The North Carolina Bar and Tavern Association today filed a lawsuit on behalf of 185 businesses to have private bars included under the same reopening safety rules as restaurants, eating establishments, wineries, distilleries, breweries, and private clubs,” said the statement on the association’s Facebook page.

The suit is seeking a temporary restraining order against Cooper’s executive order 141, in addition to a preliminary and permanent injunction.

Additionally, a coalition of a dozen news outlets including the New York Times and Associated Press are suing both Cooper and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS)