Wilson v. North Carolina Department of Commerce (Lawyers Weekly No. 15-07-0158, 17 pp.) (Lucy Inman, J.) Appealed from Wake County Superior Court (Paul Ridgeway, J.) N.C. App.
Holding: In this Public Records Act case, the trial court failed to determine the effect of 20 C.F.R. Part 603 – the federal regulations concerning the confidentiality of unemployment insurance information – on plaintiffs’ request for continuing daily access to unemployment appeal hearing notices.
We vacate the preliminary injunction and remand for further proceedings.
Plaintiffs – an attorney and her firm – sought and won a preliminary injunction requiring defendants to provide plaintiffs daily access to appeals hearing notices about unemployment claimants. However, during the pendency of this appeal, the General Assembly amended G.S. § 96-4(x) to provide that unemployment appeal hearing notices are “confidential information” and are specifically exempt from the Public Records Act.
Plaintiffs contend the amendment to § 96-4(x) was a substantial change and was therefore not retroactive. Accordingly, plaintiffs argue that, with respect to hearings scheduled prior to the amendment, plaintiffs were entitled to disclosure of daily hearing notices and to recover their attorneys’ fees incurred in enforcing their right.
On remand, the trial court must determine whether the amendment to § 96-4(x) changed the substance of the statute or merely clarified it and, in turn, whether the amendment applies to plaintiffs’ claims for the disclosure of hearing notices created prior to the amendment.
Vacated and remanded.