THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TEXAS
Ken Paxton

How to Request Public Information

While there is no strict form required to request public information, there are certain guidelines that must be met. We have set forth the following tips to help you make a successful Public Information Act request.

Tips for Successful Open Records Requests

  1. Your request must be in writing to the governmental entity you believe maintains the documents. Only written requests trigger a governmental body's obligations under the Public Information Act.
  2. Your request should be for documents or other information that is already in existence. Governmental bodies are not required to answer questions, perform legal research, or comply with a continuing request to supply information on a periodic basis as such information is prepared in the future.
  3. We recommend that all requests be sent by U.S. mail and that a copy of the original request and proof of its receipt by the governmental body be kept.
  4. We recommend that all requests be addressed to the Officer for Public Information or the chief administrative officer of the governmental body. Requests made by facsimile or electronic mail must be addressed to the Officer for Public Information or the chief administrative officer in order to trigger an obligation under the Public Information Act.
  5. If you believe that a governmental body has not responded as required by the Public Information Act, we recommend that you contact the Open Records Division Hotline at (512) 478-6736 or toll-free (877) 673-6839, your local District Attorney, or local County Attorney.

 

What Requestors Can Expect After a Request is Made

  • The governmental body must "promptly" produce public information in response to your request. "Promptly" means that a governmental body may take a reasonable amount of time to produce the information, which varies depending on the facts in each case. The amount of information you have requested is highly relevant to what makes for a reasonable response time.
  • The Public Information Act prohibits the governmental body from asking you why you want the information you have requested. The governmental body may, however, ask you to clarify your request if they are uncertain as to what you want, and they may discuss with you how the scope of your request may be narrowed if you have requested a large amount of information.
  • If the governmental body wishes to withhold information from you, it must:
    1. Seek an attorney general decision within ten business days of its receipt of your request and state the exceptions to disclosure that it believes are applicable. The governmental body must also send you a copy of its letter to the attorney general requesting a decision within ten business days. If the governmental body does not notify you of its request for an attorney general decision, the information you requested is generally presumed to be open to the public.
    2. Within fifteen business days of receiving your request, the governmental body must send the attorney general its arguments for withholding the information you requested and copies of the information you have requested. You are entitled to receive this notice, however, if the letter to the attorney general contains the substance of the information requested, you may receive a redacted copy of the letter. If the governmental body does not send you a copy of this letter, you may request it from the attorney general by writing to:
      Lauren Downey, Public Information Coordinator
      Office of the Attorney General
      P.O. Box 12548
      Austin, Texas 78711-2548
      FAX (512) 494-8017
      If the governmental body does not timely request an attorney general decision, notify you that it is seeking an attorney general decision, and submit to the attorney general the information you requested, the information is generally presumed to be open to the public.
  • The Open Records Division does not accept comments via fax or e-mail.  Therefore, please do not submit comments via fax or e-mail. If an attorney general decision has been requested, you may submit your written comments to the attorney general stating any facts you want the Open Records Division to consider. You may send your comments to:
    Office of the Attorney General
    Open Records Division
    P.O. Box 12548
    Austin, Texas 78711-2548
  • The Public Information Act expressly prohibits the attorney general from releasing the records
    submitted to the Open Records Division for a ruling.

 

Third Party Information

If you have requested information from a governmental body, and the information requested implicates a third party's interests, that third party may send a letter or brief to the attorney general stating why its information that is held by a governmental body should be withheld. This occurs, for example, in instances where a requestor has asked a governmental body for a copy of a proposal that a certain individual or business has made to a governmental body. In such an instance, you should receive a copy of that third party's letter to the attorney general, however, if the letter to the attorney general contains the substance of the information you requested, you may receive a redacted copy. If you do not receive this letter, you may request it from the attorney general by writing to:

Lauren Downey, Public Information Coordinator
Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 12548
Austin, Texas 78711-2548
FAX (512) 494-8017

 

When an Attorney General Decision is Issued

Our office generally issues its decisions within 45 days of receipt of the request for a decision. At that time, we will send you a copy of the ruling. We will also send the governmental body a copy of the decision, as well as the information that you requested. If the decision requires that some or all of the information be released to you, the governmental body will send you the information. If you have questions about a decision you have received, you may call the Open Government Hotline toll free at (877) 673-6839 (877-OPENTEX).

If the decision requires the governmental body to release certain information to you, the governmental body must do one of three things:

  1. release the information to you;
  2. notify you 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 you of its intent to challenge the decision in court.

If the governmental body fails to do one of these three things, you should submit a written complaint to the Open Records Division. You may also file a complaint with your local district or county attorney or follow the litigation option identified in subchapter H of chapter 552 regarding civil enforcement actions.

If you have received a ruling that allows the governmental body to withhold all or some of the information you have requested, and you disagree with the ruling, you can appeal that decision by litigation. See subchapter H, chapter 552 of the Texas Government Code.

If you have questions about charges for the information you have requested, contact the Cost Rules Administrator for the Office of the Attorney General at (512) 475-2497.

 

Judicial Records

The Public Information Act does not govern records maintained by the judiciary. However, there are other laws that do govern the release of information maintained by the judiciary. For more information, you may contact the State Office of Court Administration, P.O. Box 12066, Austin, Texas 78711; phone (512) 463-1625.

 

Attorney Representation

In addition to issuing attorney general decisions, the Open Records Division dispenses general guidance on the Public Information Act, and investigates written complaints filed against governmental bodies. In fulfilling these functions and ensuring that governmental bodies comply with the Public Information Act, however, we cannot represent you as your attorney.

 

Request Documents from OAG

If you would like to view or obtain copies of our records, please send a written request by mail, fax or email to the following:

Lauren Downey
Public Information Coordinator
Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 12548
Austin, TX 78711 2548
fax: (512) 494-8017
publicrecords@texasattorneygeneral.gov