|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
June 2, 2000
Mr. Leonard W. Peck, Jr.
Dear Mr. Peck:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Public Information Act (the "Act"), chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 136037.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (the "department") received a request for eight categories of information relating to two named inmates. You state that, pursuant to section 552.029(8) of the Government Code, you have provided the requestor with information responsive to one of the request categories because it concerns the death of one of the named inmates. You have submitted information responsive to two other request categories and claim that the information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.107 and 552.131 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.(1)
Initially, we note that you have raised section 552.028, which provides:
(a) A governmental body is not required to accept or comply with a request for information from:
(1) an individual who is imprisoned or confined in a correctional facility; or
(2) an agent of that individual, other than that individual's attorney when the attorney is requesting information that is subject to disclosure under this chapter.
(b) This section does not prohibit a governmental body from disclosing to an individual described by Subsection (a)(1), or that individual's agent, information held by the governmental body pertaining to that individual.
(c) In this section, 'correctional facility' has the meaning assigned by Section 1.07(a), Penal Code.
Gov't Code § 552.028. You represent that if the requestor is proceeding on behalf of her son, "an individual who is imprisoned or confined in a correctional facility," the department is under no obligation to respond to the request. We agree. Therefore, if the requestor is indeed acting as her son's agent, the Act gives the department the discretion to either "comply with" this request or deny it in its entirety.
Section 552.131 of the Government Code excepts from disclosure information obtained or maintained by the department which relates to an inmate who is confined in a facility operated by or under contract with the department. Section 552.029 list eight categories of information regarding an inmate who is confined in a department facility that must be released, not withstanding exception under section 552.108 and 552.131. You state that the information submitted is not among the items required to be disclosed by section 552.029. We agree. Therefore, the information submitted, a law library sign-in log(2) and a videotape of one of the named inmates, must be withheld from disclosure under section 552.131. Because section 552.131 is dispositive, we do not address your other claimed exception.
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.
Ref: ID# 136037
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Beatrice Benavides
1. You state that, as to the other five categories of requested information, the department has been unable, "after diligent inquiry," to locate information responsive to this request. If you are able to locate these documents at a later date, please note that this open records letter does not reach, and therefore does not authorize the withholding of, any other requested records to the extent that those records contain substantially different types of information than that submitted to this office.
2. We note that the library sign-in log may also be protected under privacy principles in that decisions regarding education are considered to be within a constitutionally protected "zone of privacy." See Open Records Decision No. 600 at 4 (1992) (citing Ramie v. City of Hedwig Village, 765 F.2d 490 (5th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1062 (1986)).
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