The Greensboro City Council decided to appeal the gag order imposed by North Carolina Superior Court Judge Susan Bray to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
The City Council petitioned Bray for the right to view the police body worn camera videos of an event downtown on the night of Sept. 10, 2016, which resulted in a number of arrests. Bray agreed to allow the City Council to view the videos with the restriction that those viewing the video could not speak divulge what they had seen to anyone who didn’t have permission to view the video. So members of the City Council could view the video but couldn’t talk about the video except among themselves.
The city attorneys went back to Bray and asked that the gag order be lifted and when Bray was told the councilmembers had not viewed the video she refused to consider lifting the gag order.
The City Council decided not to view the video as long as the gag order was in place and appealed Bray’s decision to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, which came back with a unanimous decision that Bray had the authority to issue the gag order and the gag order did not infringe on the constitutional rights of the councilmembers.
The City Council decided to appeal the unanimous Court of Appeals ruling to the NC Supreme Court and that appeal was filed on Wednesday, Sept. 11. Since it was a unanimous decision the NC Supreme Court could decline to hear the case.
City Councilmember Justin Outling, who is a partner at the Brooks Pierce law firm, said he expected the NC Supreme Court to hear the case and said that a different court could look at the case very differently from the way the Court of Appeals did.
Outling said the way the Court of Appeals viewed the case “was that the police body worn camera videos only came to the City Council by virtue of a court order and the state statute.”
Outling added, “It’s the city’s video by virtue of the fact that we paid for the camera.”
He said, “The ruling was based on the idea that we received this footage from an outside source. In my opinion the footage is ours. It’s hard for me to understand how it’s not the city’s footage.”
Outling added, “ However, I respect and understand the decision of the Court of Appeals.”
Outling said that the fact that an attorney has allegedly violated the gag order and publicly released information about the video, a matter that is currently under review, would in his mind increase the likelihood that the NC Supreme Court would hear the case.