N.C. Court Of Appeals: Statutory 'Custodian' Of Public Records Is 'In Charge Of' The Relevant Office

Author:Mr Michael Thelen
Profession:Womble Carlyle

Former Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline was removed from office by Court order in the first half of 2012. The story behind her efforts to return to the office has been detailed at great length by the local Raleigh and Durham press corps.

Ms. Cline recently filed suit against David Hoke -- both, personally and "in his official capacity as assistant director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts" (the "AOC") -- to obtain certain AOC emails "related to [Ms. Cline's] service as district attorney in preparation to defend a complaint filed against her by the North Carolina State Bar".

The case we're talking about is Cline v. Hoke, No. COA14-428 (Dec. 16, 2014).

The trial court dismissed Ms. Cline's suit against Mr. Hoke in part, and Ms. Cline appealed.

On appeal, the Court first addressed the dismissal of the suit against Mr. Hoke in his individual capacity. The Court dispenses with this appellate point with a swift stroke of the pen: "In order to compel an unresponsive custodian to fulfill this statutory duty [to permit reasonable inspection of public records pursuant to NCGS 132-6], a party must sue the custodian of those records in the custodian's official capacity."

Ok, so Mr. Hoke must be sued in his official capacity. Turns out that Ms. Cline covered that base, however. The question then becomes: is Mr. Hoke, as assistant director of the AOC...

To continue reading