Elliot Engstrom

Principal Attorney

Elliot began his legal career litigating cases for the Raleigh-based Civitas Institute in courts across North Carolina. For his public records work with Civitas, Elliot was awarded the 2017 Sunshine Award for Advocacy by the North Carolina Open Government Coalition. He also served as local counsel for the Pacific Legal Foundation at the North Carolina Supreme Court and filed a joint brief at the United States Supreme Court with the Cato Institute.


Following his time with Civitas, Elliot spent two years teaching legal writing and administrative law as a faculty member at Elon University School of Law. While at Elon, he published two articles on North Carolina's public records laws in the North Carolina Law Review and the Elon Law Review. He also was a frequent commentator for news organizations including WBTV Charlotte, WGHP Greensboro, Spectrum News, The Daily Tar Heel, and WFDD Public Radio.

Upon leaving Elon, Elliot spent two years as Deputy County Attorney for Cleveland County, North Carolina. In that role, he served as legal counsel for over twenty county departments, including the County Manager's Office, Human Resources Department, Health Department, Register of Deeds, Sheriff, and Planning Department. His duties included litigation, contract review, risk management, public records requests, and advising county boards and officials.


Elliot now serves as legal director for a national organization that supports public interest litigation. He  also maintains a private law practice and serves on his local planning board and board of adjustment.

Elliot earned his J.D. from the University of Georgia and his B.A. from Wake Forest University, where he was managing editor of the Old Gold & Black. He lives in Union County with his wife, daughter, and son.


  • North Carolina Administrative, Trial, & Appellate Courts

  • North Carolina Federal District Courts


  • University of Georgia School of Law; Juris Doctorate (2013)

  • Wake Forest University; Bachelor of Arts (2010)


Select Publications

Defining North Carolina's Public Records and Open Meetings Fee-Shifting Provisions in the Larger National Context, 96 N.C. L. Rev. 1725 (2018).

“Tuning Up” North Carolina’s Public Records Act: A Brief Discussion of Problem Areas and Possible Solutions, 9 Elon Law Rev. 23 (2017).

Select Presentations

"Closed Sessions & The Clerk." Western Regional Master Clerk Academy. UNC School of Government in Cooperation with the North Carolina Association of County Clerks. Shelby, NC. Oct. 4, 2019.

“Who Pays (and Who Should).” Where You Stand is Where You Sit: The Multifaceted View of the Public Records Act (Administrative Law and Government & Public Sector Sections Joint CLE). North Carolina Bar Association. Raleigh, NC. Nov. 16, 2018.


“FOIA As a Legal Writing Teaching Tool.” One-Day Workshop. Legal Writing Institute. Greensboro, NC. Dec. 8, 2017.


“Problems and Solutions in North Carolina’s Public Records Law.” Shaftesbury Society Lecture. John Locke Foundation. Raleigh, NC. Sept. 25, 2017.


“Overcriminalization and the Administrative State.” Liberty Lecture Series. Central Carolina Community College. Sanford, NC. March 29, 2017.


“Legal & Economic Issues Surrounding the Early Days of the Trump Administration.” Campbell University Federalist Society. Raleigh, NC. Feb. 13, 2017 (panelist).