On October 12, a Wake County judge ruled 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 to fund a multimillion-dollar experiment to find more sustainable methods of disposing of hog waste.
Filed last October, the lawsuit claimed that then-attorney general Roy Cooper had illegally diverted money from public schools.
The money at the center of the lawsuit was the result of the so-called Smithfield Agreement, in which former attorney general Mike Easley made a deal with pork giant Smithfield requiring the company to invest tens of millions of dollars into environmentally superior waste management technologies.
The dispute boiled down to whether the agreement constituted a state fine. If it did, then state law mandated that the proceeds should be put into the Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund and then routed to schools, rather than being dedicated to environmental improvements.
The state, however, countered that the agreement wasn’t made in lieu of penalties or fines and wasn’t triggered by an enforcement action.
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.”
Following the state’s motion for summary judgment, De Luca’s lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice.