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Civil Rights — Public Records Act – AOC – Employee Emails – Custodian – Director

Cline v. Hoke (Lawyers Weekly No. 14-07-1164, 10 pp.) (Linda McGee, Ch. J.) Appealed from Wake County Superior Court (Paul Gessner, J.) N.C. App.

Holding: Where G.S. § 132-2 says, “The public official in charge of an office having public records shall be the custodian thereof,” the statute designates a particular person within an office as being the designated custodian for that officer’s public records. Since defendant is the assistant director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, defendant is not the person in charge of the AOC and thus is not the designated custodian of the AOC’s records. In her Public Records Act suit to gain access to AOC employee emails, plaintiff failed to pursue her action against the public official in charge of the AOC’s public records.

We affirm the trial court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s case.

Despite the AOC’s contention that each employee is the custodian of his or her own emails, the Department of Cultural Resources has expressly stated, “Legal custody of [state employees’] electronic mail rests with the office of the sender or recipient.” Thus, each individual state employee who creates a public record is not automatically the custodian thereof.

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