Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Tillett v. Town of Kill Devil Hills

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

December 19, 2017

JERRY R. TILLETT, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF KILL DEVIL HILLS, a Body Politic and Municipal Corporation, Defendant.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 18 October 2017.

         Appeal by plaintiff and defendant from order entered 14 November 2016 by Judge Jeffery B. Foster in Dare County No. 15-CVS-327 Superior Court.

          Nexsen Pruet PLLC, by Norman W. Shearin, for plaintiff-appellee and cross-appellant.

          Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog LLP, by Dan M. Hartzog, Jr., for defendant-appellant and cross-appellee.

          DIETZ, JUDGE.

         Judge Jerry Tillett brought suit under our State's Public Records Act to compel the Town of Kill Devil Hills to produce documents that he contends are public records subject to disclosure under the Act. The trial court reviewed these documents in camera-meaning in private, outside the presence of the parties and the public. The court determined that two documents were subject to disclosure and ordered them to be produced under seal to Judge Tillett. Both parties appealed.

         On appeal, the Town argues that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enter the challenged order. We agree. The applicable section of the Public Records Act states that a litigant "may apply to the appropriate division of the General Court of Justice for an order compelling disclosure or copying, and the court shall have jurisdiction to issue such orders if the person has complied with G.S. 7A-38.3E." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 132-9(a) (emphasis added). As explained in more detail below, the General Assembly's use of the word "jurisdiction" demonstrates that it intended for Section 132-9(a) to impose a jurisdictional rule, rather than an ordinary procedural rule.

         Judge Tillett concedes that he did not satisfy the requirements of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 132-9(a) because he failed to initiate mediation within 30 days of the Town's filing of a responsive pleading, as required by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-38.3E. Accordingly, we must vacate the trial court's order for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         Facts and Procedural History

         In early 2015, Judge Jerry Tillett requested various public records from the Town of Kill Devil Hills through the provisions of our State's Public Records Act. The Town produced some records but withheld others, arguing that they fell within various exceptions to the public records laws. Judge Tillett then sued the Town to compel disclosure of the remaining, undisclosed records.

         The applicable provisions of the public records laws required Judge Tillett to "initiate mediation . . . no later than 30 days from the filing of responsive pleadings with the clerk in the county where the action is filed." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-38.3E(b). Judge Tillett did not initiate mandatory mediation within 30 days after the Town filed its answer.

         Ultimately, after a hearing and an opportunity to review the disputed documents in camera, the trial court ordered the Town to produce copies of two of the challenged documents, but also ordered that the documents must remain under seal and not be shared with the public generally. Both parties timely appealed the trial court's order.

         Analysis

         We begin our analysis with the Town's argument that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate this dispute. Subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law that this Court reviews de novo. McKoy ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.