|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
June 7, 2000
Mr. Miles Risley
Dear Mr. Risley:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 136799.
The City of Victoria (the "city") received a written request for police records pertaining to a named individual. You state that some responsive records have been released to the requestor. You contend, however, that certain other records coming within the ambit of the request are excepted from public disclosure pursuant to section 552.101of the Government Code.
Section 552.101 of the Government Code protects "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." (Emphasis added.) You first contend that certain hospital records of a police officer are made confidential under the Texas Medical Practice Act (the "MPA"), Occ. Code § 151.001 et. seq. Section 159.002 of the Occupations Code provides in pertinent part:
(b) A record of the identity, diagnosis, evaluation, or treatment of a patient by a physician that is created or maintained by a physician is confidential and privileged and may not be disclosed except as provided by this chapter.
(c) A person who receives information from a confidential communication or record as described by this chapter, other than a person listed in Section 159.004 who is acting on the patient's behalf, may not disclose the information except to the extent that disclosure is consistent with the authorized purposes for which the information was first obtained.
We agree that the two pages of medical records at issue are made confidential under section 159.002 of the Occupations Code and therefore may be released only in accordance with the provisions of the MPA.
Other police records you seek to withhold relate to reports of juvenile conduct. Prior to its repeal by the Seventy-fourth Legislature, section 51.14(d) of the Family Code provided as follows:
Except as provided by Article 15.27, Code of Criminal Procedure, and except for files and records relating to a charge for which a child is transferred under Section 54.02 of this code to a criminal court for prosecution, the law-enforcement files and records are not open to public inspection nor may their contents be disclosed to the public, but inspection of the files and records is permitted by:
(1) a juvenile court having the child before it in any proceeding;
(2) an attorney for a party to the proceeding; and
(3) law-enforcement officers when necessary for the discharge of their official duties.
Despite the repeal of section 51.14(d), law-enforcement records pertaining to juvenile conduct that occurred prior to the effective date of the repeal, January 1, 1996, continue to be confidential under that section.(1) Because the remaining documents you seek to withhold pertain to juvenile conduct that occurred prior to January 1, 1996, we conclude that these records are governed by section 51.14(d) of the Family Code and that the city must withhold these records in their entirety. See also Open Records Decision No. 181 (1977).
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.
Noelle C. Letteri
Ref: ID# 136799
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Lisa Hartman
1. See Act of May 27, 1995, 74th Leg., R.S., ch. 262, § 106, 1995 Tex. Gen. Laws 2591 (Vernon).
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