Raleigh, N.C. — The state Court of Appeals has rejected Gov. Pat McCrory's claim that he should be immune from a lawsuit saying that his administration has failed to provide public records in a timely manner.
A coalition of media companies and nonprofits, including Capitol Broadcasting Co., WRAL News' parent company, has sued not only seeking specific public records but asking the court to find that the McCrory administration has a pattern of dragging its feet on requests. The coalition wants the court to order the government to find ways to ensure swifter delivery of records going forward.
Although the lower court hasn't fully reviewed the case, the administration appealed to the Court of Appeals asking that judges there dismiss the matter. Among the governor's arguments was that the government can't be sued for something if that claim has not specifically laid out in statute. This idea of "sovereign immunity," lawyers argued, should protect the governor from the broader claims in the media coalition's suit.
The court rejected that argument, saying the government was conflating two different pieces of law and had failed to raise that defense in the trial court.
"However, because the record in this matter reveals that Defendants did not properly plead or argue sovereign immunity in the trial court, we dismiss this appeal as not properly before us," Judge Linda Stephens wrote for the three-judge panel.
If the appeal's court ruling stands, the case should be able to move forward.