Before Governor Cooper was set to take office in 2017, the North Carolina legislature allowed outgoing Governor, Pat McCrory, to appoint Charlton Allen as the chair of the North Carolina Industrial Commission. McCrory also appointed Yolanda Stith as vice-chair of the commission and provided her with a nearly nine-year term.
Following McCrory’s appointments, incoming Governor Cooper brought suit against Senate Leader Philip Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, as well as Charlton Allen and Yolanda Stith.
In an order and judgment filed on December 3, 2018, Wake County Superior Court Judge Henry Hight ruled that the legislature’s actions in 2016 violated the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches, and was therefore unconstitutional. In his opinion, Judge Hight noted that the legislature deprived Governor Cooper of the opportunity to appoint individuals who “share his policy views and priorities” including the chair of the commission, a position that “wields substantial authority and discretion over the execution of the state’s workers’ compensation laws.”
On December 5, 2018, Charlton Allen and Yolanda Stith filed a motion to stay Judge Hight’s ruling. In their Motion, Allen and Stith took the position that although Judge Hight’s ruling “did not explicitly enter an order removing Mr. Allen and Ms. Stith in their positions,” the effect of the ruling risked their removal. An expedited hearing was requested to be heard further on the motion to stay.
Following Judge Hight’s ruling, Governor Cooper appointed Philip Baddour, III, a Democrat, as the commission’s new chair and Myra Griffin, also a Democrat, as the commission’s vice-chair. Baddour has been at the commission since 2000, and Griffin since 2005.
On December 14, 2018, Judge Hight issued an order denying the motion to stay, noting there was “no good cause to grant the requested stay.” That same day, Charlton Allen and Yolanda Stith filed their notice of appeal, appealing Judge Hight’s December 3, 2018 opinion to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Then, on December 21, 2018, Senate Leader Philip Berger and Speaker of the House Tim Moore filed their own notice of appeal.
According to the Industrial Commission’s website, Philip Baddour and Myra Griffin are still listed as chair and vice-chair of the Commission. Charlton Allen and Yolanda Stith are listed as commissioners, but their prior appointments by former Governor McCrory are still referenced in their biographies.
We will continue to monitor the outcome of this case as it will affect the changing state of the North Carolina Industrial Commission.