|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
February 8, 1999
Mr. Thomas E. Shute
Dear Mr. Shute:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 122037.
The City of San Antonio (the "city") received a request for all notices the city received regarding a fallen stop sign at the intersection of Nolan and Muncey Streets. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.103 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Section 552.103(a) excepts from disclosure information relating to litigation to which a governmental body is or may be a party. The governmental body has the burden of providing relevant facts and documents to show that section 552.103(a) is applicable in a particular situation. In order to meet this burden, the governmental body must show that (1) litigation is pending or reasonably anticipated, and (2) the information at issue is related to that litigation. University of Tex. Law Sch. v. Texas Legal Found., 958 S.W.2d 479 (Tex. App.-Austin 1997, no pet.); Heard v. Houston Post Co., 684 S.W.2d 210, 212 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1984, writ ref'd n.r.e.); Open Records Decision No. 551 at 4 (1990). Section 552.103 requires concrete evidence that litigation may ensue. To demonstrate that litigation is reasonably anticipated, the city must furnish evidence that litigation is realistically contemplated and is more than mere conjecture. Open Records Decision No. 518 at 5 (1989). Whether litigation is reasonably anticipated must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Open Records Decision No. 452 at 4 (1986).
Concrete evidence to support a claim that litigation is reasonably anticipated may include, for example, the governmental body's receipt of a letter containing a specific threat to sue the governmental body from an attorney for a potential opposing party.(1) Open Records Decision No. 555 (1990); see Open Records Decision No. 518 at 5 (1989) (litigation must be "realistically contemplated"). On the other hand, this office has determined that if an individual publicly threatens to bring suit against a governmental body, but does not actually take objective steps toward filing suit, litigation is not reasonably anticipated. See Open Records Decision No. 331 (1982). The fact that a potential opposing party has hired an attorney who makes a request for information does not establish that litigation is reasonably anticipated. Open Records Decision No. 361 at 2 (1983).
You explain that "the City has not had time to investigate the matter and determine whether to deny or settle the claim. Denial, however, is the more probable outcome based upon Mr. Khattar's statement of this case." After reviewing your arguments, we conclude that your assertion that litigation may be reasonably anticipated is merely speculative at this time. Because you have not shown that litigation is reasonably anticipated, you may not withhold the requested information under section 552.103.
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,
Ref.: ID# 122037
Enclosures: Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Jason Khattar
1. In addition, this office has concluded that litigation was reasonably anticipated when the potential
opposing party took the following objective steps toward litigation: filed a complaint with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission, see Open Records Decision No. 336 (1982); hired an attorney who
made a demand for disputed payments and threatened to sue if the payments were not made promptly, see
Open Records Decision No. 346 (1982); and threatened to sue on several occasions and hired an attorney, see
Open Records Decision No. 288 (1981).
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US