Tuesday, March 06, 2007, 1:56 PM

Governor Not Required To Disclose Clemency Materials

The COA ruled today, in a suit the News & Observer brought against Governor Easley, that clemency materials the N&O sought access to via the Public Records Act are not subject to the Act and do not need to be disclosed.

The COA noted that the power to grant or deny clemency lies in the sole discretion of the Governor, and the NC constitution provides that this power is subject only to regulations prescribed by law relative to the manner of applying for pardons.

The Public Records Act provides a right of access to public records and public information compiled by the agencies of North Carolina government.

At issue here was whether the Public Records Act constituted a regulation to which the Governor's clemency powers were subject, making all records related to clemency subject to public disclosure. The COA held they weren't.

The COA noted that the Public Records Act didn't reference or pertain specifically to pardons and was not a law "relative to the manner of applying for pardons." The couple of laws that do specifically pertain to the manner of applying for pardons do not specify that related records are public, and clemency materials beyond those statutes are also not subject to any other specific disclosure regime. In the absence of a specific disclosure law, and in the face of the legislature's limited powers regarding clemency and separation of powers concerns, the COA refused to infer mandatory disclosure.

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