Open government types and news organizations sometimes complain that the expense of successfully suing a governmental body or agency over public records disputes discourages such lawsuits. They say that automatically awarding legal fees would give government officials pause before restricting the public's access to records.
A bill that would automatically award fees in such cases sailed through the Senate but died in the House last session. Bill Holmes, a spokesman for Hackney, said the Speaker is interested in passing a bill that would allow automatic recovery of costs as long as it wouldn't strip all discretion away from judges.
"He just wants to make sure the fees are reasonable," Holmes said. "There's no other area of law in North Carolina that allows for automatic recovery of fees."