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Lawyer turns to court when State Bar won't punish Cooper over alleged 2000 election defamation

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RALEIGH, North Carolina — A Raleigh lawyer said his lawsuit attacking Attorney General Roy Cooper is the final phase of a controversy dating back to Cooper's first campaign for the job 15 years ago.

The complaint filed last week by Gene Boyce in Wake County Superior Court said the North Carolina State Bar has not investigated Cooper's professional conduct because the oversight body for lawyers is represented by the attorney general's office and has a conflict. Boyce wants a judge to decide whether Cooper should be disciplined for misconduct.

Cooper's spokeswoman referred questions Tuesday to his gubernatorial campaign spokesman Jamal Little, who called the dispute a settled issue. Cooper is seeking the Democratic Party nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in November.

"After 15 years of arguing," Little said, "it is time to move on."

Boyce's son, Dan Boyce, was the Republican candidate for attorney general who lost to Cooper in 2000.

The Boyces sued over a television commercial Cooper aired in that campaign, claiming the ad's claims were false. Cooper's team defended the commercial and said the other side couldn't prove its contents were false.

The lawsuit was settled in 2014 after Cooper and a top aide signed a statement that the Boyces and other attorneys "are all excellent and ethical lawyers and honorable people. To the extent the political TV ad in the 2000 election for Attorney General implied anything else, we were wrong and we apologize."

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