|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
February 9, 1999
Mr. Jesus Toscano, Jr.
Dear Mr. Toscano:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Texas Open Records Act, chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 121838.
The City of Dallas (the "city") received a request for information from City Councilmember Laura Miller. Councilmember Miller requested copies of all legal opinions drafted by the Dallas city attorney's office that address the issue of conflict of interest in pending Love Field lawsuits. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under Government Code sections 552.101, 552.107(1), and 552.111. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Initially, we recognize that the requestor is a member of the city council. This office has previously ruled that members of the governing body of a state or local governmental entity have an inherent right to examine the records of the governmental entity if they request access to the records in their official capacity. See Attorney General Opinion JM-119 (1983); Attorney General Letter Opinion No. 93-69 (1993). We note that the determination of whether a requestor is acting in an official capacity rather than as a member of the public involves the resolution of factual issues outside the scope of the open records process. See Open Records Decision Nos. 554 (1990), 552 (1990). We also note that an authorized official may review the city's records without implicating the prohibitions of section 552.007. If the councilmember's request is considered to be a request from a member of the public we shall consider your claimed exceptions.
Section 552.107(1) excepts information that an attorney cannot disclose because of a duty to his client. In Open Records Decision No. 574 (1990), this office concluded that section 552.107 excepts from public disclosure only "privileged information," that is, information that reflects either confidential communications from the client to the attorney or the attorney's legal advice or opinions; it does not apply to all client information held by a governmental body's attorney. Id. at 5. When communications from attorney to client do not reveal the client's communications to the attorney, section 552.107 protects them only to the extent that such communications reveal the attorney's legal opinion or advice. Id. at 3. In addition, basically factual communications from attorney to client, or between attorneys representing the client, are not protected. Id. We have reviewed the subject documents and conclude that they constitute the legal opinion or advice of an attorney communicated in confidence to a client. Subject to any demonstrated special right of access, this information may be withheld pursuant to section 552.107 of the Government Code.
We are resolving this matter with an informal letter ruling rather than with a published open records decision. This ruling is limited to the particular records at issue under the facts presented to us in this request and should not be relied on as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have any questions regarding this ruling, please contact our office.
Yours very truly,
Michael Jay Burns
Ref.: ID# 121838
Enclosures: Submitted documents
cc: The Honorable Laura Miller
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US