11 Mar NC employment agency, attorney face off in court
News & Observer by David Ranii
RALEIGH — A Wake County Superior Court judge has ordered the state Division of Employment Security to continue making documents available to lawyers who rely on them to solicit new clients for at least a day or two more.
Judge Paul Ridgeway issued the order from the bench Tuesday. It keeps in place a temporary restraining order that requires the agency to make notices of appeals hearings for contested unemployment claims available on a daily basis to employment law attorneys who pay to receive them.
Ridgeway, who issued the order after a nearly four-hour hearing, indicated he intends to issue a ruling on a request for a preliminary injunction before the temporary restraining order expires at the end of the day Thursday.
“I will address it as urgently as possible,” he said. “Obviously, it’s an important issue.”
Attorney Jim White, who represents Wilson, argued that, despite the Labor Department’s position, the state is within its rights to make the hearing notices available because federal law clearly defers to state law regarding what constitutes a public record.
White also argued that Employment Security changed its policy on making hearing notices available in a cynical bid to prevent lawyers from representing unemployed workers at appeals hearings – and, ultimately, to put the law firms that represent them out of business.
“Because in the end, if these law firms are out of business and people don’t have affordable counsel, we can reduce the amount of unemployment that’s paid in the state,” White said.