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Court: Private universities not subject to public records law

Posted March 8, 2013

— A 2011 court ruling that exempts North Carolina’s private universities from public records law will stand, following a split decision Friday by the state’s highest court.

State Supreme Court justices voted 3-3 on the case, which stems from a request by a student journalist at Elon University to obtain a complete report from campus police about the arrest of another student.

The student journalist, Nick Ochsner, filed a lawsuit against the university after Elon Campus Police gave him partial information. Ochsner contended the campus violated public records law by not providing the complete arrest report, but a Superior Court judge dismissed the case.

In a 2012 ruling, the state Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision to dismiss the case and said the private university is not subject to the requirements of the state’s public records law. WRAL was among several media outlets that filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of Ochsner.

Friday’s ruling by the North Carolina Supreme Court was split, with three justices voting to reverse the appeals court decision and three upholding it. One justice abstained from voting.

State legislators this week began drafting a bill to make campus police at private colleges as transparent about arrests and emergency calls as public universities and municipal law enforcement agencies.
 

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  • Lone Voice in the Wilderness Mar 11, 11:17 a.m.

    "State legislators this week began drafting a bill to make campus police at private colleges as transparent about arrests and emergency calls as public universities and municipal law enforcement agencies."

    Courts have the responsibility to make decisions based on law--not common sense. So, the solution is to then fix the law, which it seems that the General Assembly will take up. This may be one of the few bills that the GA will pass that I will most likely support.

  • Nancy Mar 11, 8:51 a.m.

    When the feds don't uphold FOIA, why should private entities be held to a higher standard?

  • miseem Mar 8, 7:16 p.m.

    Who voted which way? You really think any news source would give that much detail? generally, on a split decision, all they say is it was split, with no idea if there was one dissenter or several. You'd think they were reporting on a private police force or something. By the way, if the police involved are sworn officers and have the right to arrest someone, in my opinion they are public. Anything that ends up with you in the public criminal justice system is not private.

  • lwe1967 Mar 8, 7:00 p.m.

    Who voted what way in the Court?

  • billknighton Mar 8, 6:36 p.m.

    Fair enough if they are private police and do not carry the authority of law. So the arrested student should have eluded the private police or used violence to prevent being kidnapped. Why did the student cooperate?
    to avoid suspension from the college?

  • TiminNCisBack Mar 8, 5:51 p.m.

    Duh, "Private" "Public"