NCPA files brief over redistricting documents’ status as public records
The North Carolina Press Association and the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters have filed a motion with the state Supreme Court to allow a friend of the court brief on a lawsuit involving whether documents providing advice to legislators on redistricting are public records.
The motion and the brief were filed June 27.
The case stems from several lawsuits that were consolidated into one asking the courts to declare invalid the results of last year’s redistricting process.
The media interest in the case involves whether documents sought by the plaintiffs are public records or confidential communications protected by the attorney-client privilege. A special three-judge Redistricting Court ruled earlier this year that the documents were clearly public records.
The judges cited the specific statute, which reads:
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, all drafting and information requests to legislative employees and documents prepared by legislative employees for legislators concerning redistricting the North Carolina General Assembly or the Congressional Districts are no longer confidential and become public records upon the act establishing the relevant district plan becoming law.”
The defendants in the case argue that the legislators’ attorneys were not legislative employees. The judges ruled otherwise, citing the state statute that defines “legislative employee” as including “consultants and counsel to members and committees of either house of the General Assembly or of legislative commissions who are paid by State funds.”
NCPA and NCAB’s friend of the court brief asks the Supreme Court to uphold the ruling of the Redistricting Court, pointing out that the law is unambiguous that any documents concerning the redistricting process become public record once the process is completed.
The media organizations have not taken any position on the core lawsuit of trying to declare North Carolina’s redistricting invalid. The request to file and the brief itself only deal with the question of whether the documents are public records.