An open government is the cornerstone of a free society. The Attorney General is responsible for ensuring that Texas government is open and accessible to all citizens.
The Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General issues rulings and decisions that determine whether information is open to the public under the Public Information Act and other applicable laws. Each year, the division receives thousands of letter briefs from governmental bodies seeking decisions on open records matters.
Below are statutory requirements governing the public information request process, as well as tips and guidelines for governmental bodies seeking rulings from this office. Guidance for requestors of public information can be found on the page about how to request information.
The statutory requirements that apply to governmental bodies that have received requests for public information can be found in the Public Information Act, which is codified at chapters 552 of the Government Code.
Within 10 business days of receiving the request for information, a governmental body must submit:
To the Attorney General:
- Must ask for Attorney General decision and state which exceptions apply to the information within 10 business days after receiving the request. Section 552.301(b).
To the Requestor:
- Must provide written statement that the governmental body wishes to withhold the requested information and that the governmental body has asked for an Attorney General decision. Section 552.301(d)(1).
- Must provide a copy of the governmental body's written communication to the Attorney General in which the governmental body asks for a decision. If the governmental body's written communication to the Attorney General discloses the requested information, a redacted copy must be provided. Section 552.301(d)(2).
To the Third Party (if applicable):
- Must make "good faith attempt" to notify affected parties. Section 552.305(d).
- Notice must be in writing and in the form prescribed by the Attorney General. Section 552.305(d)(1)-(2).
Within 15 business days of receiving the request for information, a governmental body must submit:
To the Attorney General:
- Written comments stating why the stated exceptions apply. Section 552.301(e)(1)(A).
- A copy of written request. Section 552.301(e)(1)(B).
- A signed statement stating the date the request for information was received by the governmental body or evidence sufficient to establish the date the request was received. Section 552.301(e)(1)(C).
- Copies of the documents at issue or a representative sample of the documents at issue. Section 552.301(e)(1)(D).
- Must label the documents to indicate which exceptions apply to which parts of the documents. Section 552.301(e)(2).
- A copy of written comments stating why the stated exceptions apply. Section 552.301(e-1).
Governmental bodies should send their requests for open records letter ruling to the OAG by US Mail to:
Office of the Attorney General
Open Records Division
P.O. Box 12548
Austin, TX 78711
Practical Tips on Writing Effective Briefs to the Open Records Division
- The Public Information Handbook published by this office is your primary resource in writing effective briefs to the Open Records Division.
- Follow the standards set forth in the Handbook to meet the requirements of your claimed exceptions. For example, if claiming exception under section 552.103 (the "litigation exception"), you must explain how the litigation is either pending or reasonably anticipated AND how the documents at issue relate to the pending or anticipated litigation.
- Be sure to explain everything in your briefing. Assume your audience knows absolutely nothing about the situation at hand. If it is not abundantly clear, accurately and adequately describe the submitted documents. For example, how are these documents responsive to the instant request for information? Who are the parties described in the documents? What is their relationship to the governmental body? If you are claiming that any of the documents are privileged under either the attorney-client or work product privileges, explain whether or not any of the parties are attorneys for the governmental body.
- Please DO NOT redact the documents that you are submitting for review. If we can't read them, we can't rule on them.
- Please provide adequate background information on the documents submitted. If not clear, tell us how the submitted documents are responsive to the request for information. How are they related to the pending investigation, litigation, etc... ? What, if anything, has already been released to the requestor? If not clear, what is your governmental body's function? For example, if you have a law enforcement capacity, please tell us.
- Proofread all correspondence! Have someone else in your office re-read your submission for minor clerical or typographical errors. Make sure you have typed the correct section number for your claimed exceptions (552.103 vs. 552.130). Also check for incorrectly-typed names, dates, and spelling errors.
- Mark all submissions clearly, carefully, and consistently. Make sure the exhibit numbers on the documents match up with the exhibit numbers in the brief. Reference previous correspondence with our office on all future, related correspondence.
- Be sure to comply with the deadlines required under sections 552.301 and 552.305 of the Government Code. Failure to do so can result in a waiver of claimed exceptions.
Divisions of the Office of the Attorney General
The following divisions of the Office of the Attorney General are involved in the effort to ensure that Texas government is open to the people it serves.
Open Records Division
The Open Records Division issues rulings and decisions that determine whether information is open to the public under the Public Information Act and other applicable laws. This division also takes action to enforce these decisions and sponsors conferences to educate citizens and government officials about the state's open government laws.
The Opinion Committee issues advisory opinions on various legal issues. The Open Meetings Act is one area of the law that the committee regularly addresses in its opinions.
Public Information Coordinator
The Public Information Coordinator handles open records requests made to this agency.
Governmental bodies requesting open records decisions or individuals submitting information pertaining to those decisions should submit that information to the Open Records Division.