The Open Records Division (ORD) generally issues Open Records Letter Rulings within 45 business days of receipt of the request for a decision. Open Records Letter Rulings are limited to the information at issue in each request and limited to the facts as presented to the ORD. Unless explicitly stated otherwise in the ruling, a governmental body cannot rely upon it as a previous determination regarding any other information or any other circumstances.
Requests that relate to types of information that are often requested and present no new or difficult issues are ruled on as quickly as possible. For those situations, the ORD issues a shortened or memorandum ruling. Memorandum rulings allow the ORD to issue a ruling quickly—usually within 10 or 20 days.
Deadlines and Remedies
Issuing a ruling triggers important deadlines regarding the rights and responsibilities of the governmental body and of the requestor.
- Governmental bodies cannot ask the ORD to reconsider a ruling. Gov't Code § 552.301(f).
- If the governmental body wants to challenge a ruling, the governmental body must appeal by filing suit in Travis County within 30 calendar days. Id. § 552.324(b).
- 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 a ruling and the governmental body does not comply with it, then both the requestor and the Office of the Attorney General have the right to file suit against the governmental body to enforce this ruling. Id. § 552.321(a).
- If a ruling requires the governmental body to release all or part of the requested information, the governmental body is responsible for taking the next step. The ORD expects that, within 10 calendar days of this ruling, the governmental body will:
- release the public records;
- 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
- notify the requestor of the governmental body's intent to challenge a letter ruling in court.
- If the governmental body fails to do one of these three things within 10 calendar days of a ruling, then the requestor should report that failure to the ORD'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 a 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); Tex. Dep't of Pub. Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408, 411 (Tex. App.--Austin 1992, no writ).
Remember that the release of information under the Public Information Act triggers certain procedures for costs and charges to the requestor.
A governmental body, the requestor, or any other person with questions or comments about a ruling may contact our office. Although there is no statutory deadline for contacting us, the ORD prefers to receive any comments within 10 calendar days of the date of the ruling.