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Civil Rights – Body-Cam Footage – Media Petitioners – Civil ‘Action’ Required

Civil Rights – Body-Cam Footage – Media Petitioners – Civil ‘Action’ Required

Petitioners are media organizations who seek the release of police body-camera footage of the arrest of a Duke University basketball player. Since petitioners are not individuals depicted in the footage, they were required to file a civil action, rather than a petition on a form published by the Administrative Office of the Courts. Because petitioners did not file a civil action, the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over their request.

We vacate the trial court’s order granting the petition.

The trial court did not have the benefit of this court’s recent decision in the unrelated case of In re Custodial Lawn Enforcement Agency Recordings, No. COA22-446 (7 February 2023); however, that decision requires us to hold that the trial court here lacked subject matter jurisdiction.

G.S. § 132-1.4A sets our different requirements for various types of petitioners and types of recordings in great detail, so the analysis of each case depends on who is requesting the release of the recording and what is depicted in the recording.

Since petitioners here are not specifically identified parties who are granted an expedited disclosure or release process under other subsections of § 132-1.4A, they are proceeding under subsection (g), as indicated on their petition filed using form AOC-CV-270. Since petitioners used form AOC-CV-270 rather than file an “ordinary civil action,” they did not have standing; thus, the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction. Since the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, its proceedings in this case were a nullity.


In re Custodial Law Enforcement Agency Recording (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-054-23, 8 pp.) (Donna Stroud, C.J.) Appealed from Orange County Superior Court (Allen Baddour, J.) Cyrus Griswold for intervenor; Michael Tadych, Matthew Vaughn, Elizabeth Soja and Hugh Stephens for petitioners; no brief filed for respondents. N.C. App.


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