Pendulum: N.C. Supreme Court agrees to review public records case brought forth by Elon alumnus
From The Pendulum (8/31/12): The North Carolina Supreme Court agreed Friday to review a North Carolina Court of Appeals ruling that North Carolina Public Records Law is not applicable to state-commissioned police departments of private universities within the state. Briefs will be filed sometime in September, and a hearing may be subsequently scheduled.
The June 5 appellate court ruling both upholds and extends a decision of the Durham County Superior Court to dismiss a complaint filed April 2011 by former Elon University student Nick Ochsner. The complaint alleged the Elon Campus Safety and Police Department “violated the North Carolina Public Records Law by refusing to provide to (Ochsner) the documents related to (a fellow student’s) arrest,” according to the court ruling.
Upon examination of the North Carolina Public Records Act, which applies to all public law enforcement agencies within the state, the Court of Appeals determined the Elon campus police department is not subject to public records law because the statute does not explicitly list campus police departments among the organizations qualifying as public law enforcement agencies.
In adamant opposition to the ruling, Ochsner petitioned the North Carolina Supreme Court to take the case on discretionary review. He filed his appeal July 10, citing a recent Supreme Court ruling on a case involving the campus police department of Davidson College. The court ruled that while the private college holds the right to oversee some aspects of the campus police department, the department is ultimately held accountable to the state and its laws. The petition argues this ruling is contradictory to that of the North Carolina Court of Appeals.