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Office of the ATTORNEY GENERAL
GREG ABBOTT
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December 19, 2002

Mr. Stephen R. Alcorn
Assistant City Attorney
City of Grand Prairie
P.O. Box 53404
Grand Prairie, Texas 75053-4045

OR2002-7293

Dear Mr. Alcorn:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 176519.

The City of Grand Prairie Municipal Court received a request for a list of municipal citations issued from October 1, 2002 to November 20, 2002. You claim that the court is not subject to the Public Information Act (the "act"). Alternatively, you contend that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108 of the Government Code. We have considered your arguments.

The act does not apply to records of the judiciary. Gov't Code 552.003(1)(B). Consequently, these records need not be released under the act. Attorney General Opinion DM-166 (1992). As records of the judiciary, however, the information may be public by other sources of law. See Gov't Code 29.007(d)(4) (complaints filed with municipal court clerk); id. 29.007(f) (municipal court clerks shall perform duties prescribed by law for county court clerk); Loc. Gov't Code 191.006 (records belonging to office of county clerk shall be open to public unless access restricted by law or court order); see also Attorney General Opinions DM-166 (1992) at 2-3 (public has general right to inspect and copy judicial records), H-826 (1976); Open Records Decision No. 25 (1974); see Star-Telegram, Inc. v. Walker, 834 S.W.2d 54, 57 (Tex. 1992) (documents filed with courts are generally considered public and must be released). As section 552.003 is dispositive, we need not consider your argument under section 552.108.

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).

Please remember that under the Act the release of information triggers certain procedures for costs and charges to the requestor. If records are released in compliance with this ruling, be sure that all charges for the information are at or below the legal amounts. Questions or complaints about over-charging must be directed to Hadassah Schloss at the Texas Building and Procurement Commission at 512/475-2497.

If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. We note that a third party may challenge this ruling by filing suit seeking to withhold information from a requestor. Gov't Code 552.325. 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,

Yen-Ha Le
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division
YHL/sdk
Ref: ID# 176519
Enc: Submitted documents

c: Ms. Robin Berry Page
Legal Center of Jose Angel Gutierrez
238 A West 12th Street
Dallas, Texas 75208
(w/o enclosures)


 

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