Court: Private universities not subject to public records law
Posted March 8, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.