Publisher's note: This post, by Brooke Medina, was originally published in Civitas's online edition.
— The Civitas Institute, a public policy think tank based in Raleigh, is considering legal action, through the General Court of Justice, against 38 members of the state House of Representatives. On September 13, 2019, public records requests were sent to 38 legislators. The requests were related to the legislative redistricting meeting held on the morning of September 11, 2019, referred to by state Rep. Deb Butler (D-New Hanover) on the House floor.
As Civitas policy analyst, Leah Byers, has reported, "While railing on the Speaker for calling the vote, [Representative Butler] says, 'We're downstairs right now trying to redraw partisan-heavy maps.' (Found at the 13-minute mark on this audio from ncleg.gov)."
The records requests, sent by Civitas's policy director, Bob Luebke, included "copies of calendars or legislative schedules; as well as documents - paper or electronic - and all other relevant documents made or received in connection with the scheduling of legislative or public business on September 11, 2019."
"Any reasonable person will tell you that 21 weeks and five days is more than ample time to be able to take a screenshot of a calendar, and possibly print notes from a meeting,"
said Civitas President Donald Bryson. "At best, 38 legislators are refusing to comply with state law, and at worst they are conspiring to coverup a redistricting meeting that occurred out of the public eye and against court orders."
Per a court ruling
in Common Cause v. Lewis, "Legislative Defendants and their agents shall conduct the entire remedial process in full public view. At a minimum, this requires all map drawing to occur at public hearings, with any relevant computer screen visible to legislators and public observers. Legislative Defendants and their agents shall not undertake any steps to draw or revise the new districts outside of public view."
Civitas has received no response from the records requests. House Minority Leader Darren Jackson (D-Wake) emailed that he was at his law office on the morning of September 11, but this email is not responsive to the records request.
The Civitas Institute is consulting with its attorneys on the next steps for legal action.
The North Carolina General Statutes are clear that the documents requested are public records, and to whom the records belong.
§ 132-1. "Public records" defined
State law provides further clarity on how public records can be legally compelled through the General Court of Justice.
§ 132-9. Access to records.
September 30, 2019 - Civitas Institute
Democratic legislators mum; whereabouts on 9/11/19 remain unanswered
Founded in 2005, the Civitas Institute is a Raleigh, NC-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit policy organization that fights to remove barriers to freedom so that all North Carolinians can enjoy a better life.