A Wake County judge ruled earlier this month against a lawsuit filed last year by Francis De Luca, the president of the conservative Civitas Institute, over a 2000 settlement between Smithfield Foods and the state attorney general to fund a multimillion-dollar experiment to find more sustainable methods of disposing of hog waste.

The news was first reported by NC Policy Watch.

The lawsuit, filed in October 2016 by De Luca, claimed that then-attorney general Roy Cooper had diverted money from public schools to environmental projects in conflict with state law. The money at the center of the lawsuit was the result of a 2000 settlement known as the Smithfield Agreement, in which former attorney general Mike Easley made a deal with pork giant Smithfield Foods requiring the company to invest tens of millions of dollars into environmentally superior waste management technologies. (The INDY recently explored the Smithfield Agreement and the waste management systems used on hog farms in our three-part series, Hogwashed.)

The lawsuit asked the court to prevent now-attorney general Josh Stein from distributing the funds and to recover the millions spent over the past three years, arguing that the agreement really amounted to a fine, not an agreement, and as such the proceeds should be put into the Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund rather than spent on making improving the hog-waste system.

De Luca’s argument failed to sway Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway, who concluded that the plaintiffs, including De Luca, have “failed to meet their burden of establishing their own entitlement to judgement or to forecast the existence of facts that support their claim or that rises to the level of creating a genuine issue of fact.” The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice. [pdf-1]