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John Cornyn

May 23, 2000

Ms. Lamis A. Safa
Assistant City Attorney
City of Houston
P.O. Box 1562
Houston, Texas 77251-1562


Dear Ms. Safa:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 136062.

The City of Houston (the "city") received a request for the complete investigation file relating to offense report number 002350400A and, subsequently, an additional request for the "front page" information related to that report. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101, 552.108, and 552.103 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Section 552.101 encompasses confidentiality provisions such as Family Code section 58.007. Juvenile law enforcement records relating to conduct that occurred on or after September 1, 1997, are confidential under section 58.007. The relevant language of section 58.007(c) states:

(c) Except as provided by Subsection (d), law enforcement records and files concerning a child and information stored, by electronic means or otherwise, concerning the child from which a record or file could be generated may not be disclosed to the public . . . .

Texas Fam. Code 58.007(c).

The information at issue involves conduct concerning a child that occurred after September 1, 1997. It does not appear that any of the exceptions in section 58.007(b) apply; therefore, the requested information is confidential pursuant to section 58.007(c) of the Family Code. We note that the juveniles in question have been certified to stand trial as adults. A plain reading of section 58.007 makes no exception for the records of juveniles certified as adults. The city must withhold the requested information in its entirety from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 58.007 of the Family Code.

One of the documents responsive to the request is an autopsy report. Autopsy reports prepared by a medical examiner are expressly made public by the Code of Criminal Procedure. Code Crim. Proc. art. 49.25, 11. Therefore, you must release the autopsy report to the requestor. Also, one of the responsive documents appears to be a press release. If this article has previously been released, it is not confidential and must be released.

Because we have resolved this request under section 552.101, we need not address the city's alternative arguments. This letter ruling is limited to the particular records at issue in this request and limited to the facts as presented to us; therefore, this ruling must not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records or any other circumstances.

This ruling triggers important deadlines regarding the rights and responsibilities of the governmental body and of the requestor. For example, governmental bodies are prohibited from asking the attorney general to reconsider this ruling. Gov't Code 552.301(f). If the governmental body wants to challenge this ruling, the governmental body must appeal by filing suit in Travis County within 30 calendar days. Id. 552.324(b). In order to get the full benefit of such an appeal, the governmental body must file suit within 10 calendar days. Id. 552.353(b)(3), (c). If the governmental body does not appeal this ruling and the governmental body does not comply with it, then both the requestor and the attorney general have the right to file suit against the governmental body to enforce this ruling. Id. 552.321(a).

If this ruling requires the governmental body to release all or part of the requested information, the governmental body is responsible for taking the next step. Based on the statute, the attorney general expects that, within 10 calendar days of this ruling, the governmental body will do one of the following three things: 1) release the public records; 2) notify the requestor of the exact day, time, and place that copies of the records will be provided or that the records can be inspected; or 3) notify the requestor of the governmental body's intent to challenge this letter ruling in court. If the governmental body fails to do one of these three things within 10 calendar days of this ruling, then the requestor should report that failure to the attorney general's Open Government Hotline, toll free, at 877/673-6839. The requestor may also file a complaint with the district or county attorney. Id. 552.3215(e).

If this ruling requires or permits the governmental body to withhold all or some of the requested information, the requestor can appeal that decision by suing the governmental body. Id. 552.321(a); Texas Department of Public Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408, 411 (Tex. App.--Austin 1992, no writ).

If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. Although there is no statutory deadline for contacting us, the attorney general prefers to receive any comments within 10 calendar days of the date of this ruling.


Amanda Crawford
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division


Ref: ID# 136062

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. David Wood
Stevenson & Ammons
3700 Montrose Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77006
(w/o enclosures)


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