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April 24, 2000

Ms. Sheila Gladstone
Attorney at Law
PMB 322
8127 Mesa Drive #B-206
Austin, Texas 78759

OR2000-1583

Dear Ms. Gladstone:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 134872.

The Tarrant County Community Supervision and Corrections Department (the "department"), which you represent, received a request for a list of the names and addresses of individuals currently on community supervision or probation in Tarrant County. You claim that in regard to the maintenance of the requested records, the department is not a "governmental body" subject to the Public Information Act (the "Act") as that term is defined in section 552.003 of the Government Code. We have considered the arguments you raise and reviewed the submitted representative sample of the information at issue.(1)

The Act generally requires the public disclosure of information maintained by a "governmental body." While the Act's definition of a "governmental body" is broad, it specifically excludes "the judiciary." Gov't Code 552.003(1) (A), (B). In determining whether a governmental entity falls within the judiciary exception to the Act, this office looks to whether the governmental entity maintains the relevant records as an agent of the judiciary in regard to judicial, as opposed to administrative, functions. Open Records Decision No. 646 at 2-3 (1996) (citing Benavides v. Lee, 665 S.W.2d 151 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 1983, no writ)).

Applying this analysis, this office has determined that probation departments maintain probationers' records as agents of criminal courts in regard to the courts' judicial functions.

State courts are responsible for supervising probationers. Article 42.12, section 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that state courts are responsible for "determining when the imposition of sentence in certain cases shall be suspended, the conditions of community supervision, and the supervision of defendants placed on community supervision." In Open Records Decision No. 236 (1980) at 2, this office concluded that probation officers who act according to the court's direction serve merely as the court's agents in carrying out their supervisory duties. Because district court judges have the ultimate direction and control over the supervision and rehabilitation of probationers, the probation department maintains probationers' records solely on behalf of the court. Probationers' records are therefore records of the judiciary and are not subject to the provisions of the Public Information Act.

Open Records Decision No. 646 at 4 (1996).

In this case, the requested information constitutes the records of individuals on probation or community supervision. These records are maintained by the department at the direction of criminal courts in regard to the courts' judicial functions. See Gov't Code 76.002 (requiring district judges trying criminal cases to establish community supervision and correction departments); see also Open Records Decision No. 646 at 4 (1996). Therefore, we find that in regard to its maintenance of the requested information, the department is not a governmental body subject to the Act. Accordingly, the department has no obligations under the Act.(2)

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.

Sincerely,

E. Joanna Fitzgerald
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division
EJF\nc
Ref: ID# 134872
Encl: Submitted documents

cc: Mr. R.J. Daniels
Probation Monitoring & Assistance
1341 Mockingbird Lane, Suite 701E
Dallas, Texas 75247
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. We assume that the "representative sample" of records submitted to this office is truly representative of the requested records as a whole. See Open Records Decision Nos. 499 (1988), 497 (1988). 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. The release of the requested information is within the discretion of the court, acting through its agent, the department. Open Records Decision No. 646 at 4 n. 3 (1996) (citing Open Records Decision No. 236 at 2-3(1980)); see also Tex. R. Jud. Admin. 12.


 

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