Elon Law instructor shares insights on public record requests
Elliot Engstrom, a Legal Method & Communication Fellow, recently delivered a presentation to attorneys and legal observers on North Carolina's public record statutes and case law, arguing that the state needs a better approach to ensuring government transparency.
An Elon Law faculty member shared his knowledge of North Carolina’s Public Records Act – and where the act falls short in promoting government transparency – in a fall workshop sponsored by a state think tank.
Elliot Engstrom, a Legal Method & Communication Fellow, spoke Sept. 25 with attorneys, scholars and government officials in a program hosted in Raleigh by the John Locke Foundation.
“Problems and Solutions in North Carolina’s Public Records Law” examined how state law lays out a process for requesting and, when necessary, suing for access to public records. Engstrom’s presentation identified problem areas and suggested a number of potential solutions to the law.
“A good public records scheme provides open access to requesters of records while also promoting efficiency in government,” he said. “There are several areas in North Carolina's Public Records Act and its interpreting case law that act as barriers to both access and efficiency. These include problems surrounding custodians of records, unjustified delay in responding to records requests, and uncertainty surrounding awards of attorney's fees.”
A 2010 graduate of Wake Forest University, Engstrom received his law degree from the University of Georgia in 2013. He has litigated in administrative, trial, and appellate courts across North Carolina in addition to his responsibilities teaching Introduction to Legal Methods, Legal Method & Communication, and Administrative Law.
Engstrom’s research interests include freedom of information laws, state constitutions, and administrative law. Engstrom is a frequent commentator on state government issues for news outlets including Spectrum News, Fox 8 WGHP, WFDD Public Radio, WBTV, The Daily Tar Heel, NC Policy Watch, WCNC, and more.
The North Carolina Open Government Coalition also has honored Engstrom in recognition of his work representing a client seeking access to government records involving a local police department, awarding him its 2017 Sunshine Award for Advocacy.