Public records case heard by judge

Public records case heard by judge

From Staff ReportsOctober 18, 2005 

A judge heard arguments Monday in The News & Observer lawsuit seeking public access to the governor's records relating to requests for criminal pardons and commutations of death sentences.

Wake Superior Court Judge Evelyn Hill said in court that she would rule by Monday whether the public is entitled under the state Public Records Law to see the governor's clemency records, according to Hugh Stevens, who represented the newspaper.

On behalf of Gov. Mike Easley and his successors, state lawyers argue that because clemency is a constitutional prerogative, the governor does not have to release documents the governor uses in making clemency decisions -- such as letters supporting or opposing the requests.

Easley's policy is to release some information, including the clemency application, but not all of it. Past governors generally released none of it.

Lawyers for The N&O argue that although decisions about clemency are the governor's province, there's no legal reason why the public may not review clemency documents, as with most other records that state and local governments create in fulfillment of their official duties.

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