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Facing alienation of affection lawsuit, NC state House speaker calls for law to change

House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), on Wednesday, January 25, 2023, just after talking with reporters about the start of bill filing for the long legislative session.
Rusty Jacobs
File photo of Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland — speaker of the North Carolina House — in his office at the NCGA.

An alienation of affection lawsuit filed this week against Rep. Tim Moore — North Carolina's state House speaker — is prompting debate about whether the state should still allow jilted spouses to sue.

Moore, R-Cleveland, faces a lawsuit from Scott Lassiter, a Wake County Soil and Water board member who says the speaker ruined his marriage. Moore told reporters Wednesday that he did have a "casual" and "sporadic at best" relationship with Jamie Liles Lassiter, who leads the state Conference of Clerks of Superior Court. But Moore says he thought Lassiter and her husband were separated.

Scott Lassiter, however, says the couple only separated in January after he learned of the relationship with Moore. Lassiter's social media accounts show several photos with Jamie Liles Lassiter posted in 2022.

Moore says he plans to fight the lawsuit and file a countersuit against Lassiter. He also says state law on the issue should change.

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"As someone who’s now the victim of this lawsuit, absolutely I think we should repeal it," Moore said. "But it is what it is at this point. It’s a law that’s there. I think we’re one of three states that have it. I think it’s a law that can be very much abused, and is being abused in this case."

But Senate leader Phil Berger disagrees. He notes that legislation to repeal alienation of affection lawsuits failed several years ago.

"I just think that there is some respect for marriage in the common law torts, and it’s something I don’t see a need to eliminate," Berger told reporters this week.

Moore has been divorced for years. He has denied claims made by Lassiter in the lawsuit that he traded political favors for sex. The lawsuit included no evidence for those claims.

While alienation of affection lawsuits are rare, they've been filed against and by North Carolina elected officials several times in recent years. Former N.C. Sen. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance, settled a suit against him in 2021 that alleged he'd had an affair with a married legislative assistant.

And in 2011, Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle sued a woman who she accused of having an affair with her husband.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.