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May 20, 1999

Ms. Joni M. Vollman
Assistant County Attorney
Office of the District Attorney
Harris County
201 Fannin, Suite 200
Houston, Texas 77002-1700

OR99-1404

Dear Ms. Vollman:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act, chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 124313.

The Harris County District Attorney (the "district attorney") received an open records request for six particular "case files." You state that certain documents will be released to the requestor. You seek to withhold certain other documents, a representative sample of which you have submitted to this office, pursuant to sections 552.101 and 552.108(a)(3) of the Government Code.(1)

You have submitted to this office certain documents which you contend constitute "work product" that is excepted from public disclosure pursuant to section 552.108(a)(3). Section 552.108(a)(3) provides that information is excepted from public disclosure under the Public Information Act if it is information that is either (A) prepared by an attorney representing the state in anticipation of or in the course of preparing for criminal litigation or (B) it is information that reflects the mental impressions or legal reasoning of an attorney representing the state. In accordance with previous rulings issued by this office, and assuming these documents were created by an attorney representing the state, we agree that the documents contained in "Exhibit A" may be withheld pursuant to section 552.108(a)(3).(2)

You next contend that the contents of "Exhibit B," which consists of various records pertaining to a juvenile offender, are excepted from required public disclosure pursuant to section 552.101 of the Government Code. Section 552.101 protects "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." (Emphasis added.) Prior to its repeal by the Seventy-fourth Legislature, section 51.14 of the Family Code provided, in relevant part, as follows:

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (e) of this section, or by Article 15.27, Code of Criminal Procedure, all files and records of a juvenile court, a clerk of court, or a prosecuting attorney relating to a child who is a party to a proceeding under this title are open to inspection only by:

(1) the judge, probation officers, and professional staff or consultants of the juvenile court;

(2) an attorney for a party to the proceeding;

(3) a public or private agency or institution providing supervision of the child by arrangement of the juvenile court, or having custody of the child under juvenile court order; or

(4) with leave of juvenile court, any other person, agency, or institution having a legitimate interest in the proceeding or in the work of the court.

(b) All files and records of a public or private agency or institution providing supervision of a child by arrangement of the juvenile court or having custody of the child under order of the juvenile court are open to inspection only by:

(1) the professional staff or consultants of the agency or institution;

(2) the judge, probation officers, and professional staff or consultants of the juvenile court;

(3) an attorney for the child;

(4) with leave of the juvenile court, any other person, agency, or institution having a legitimate interest in the work of the agency or institution; or

(5) the Texas Department of Corrections, the Department of Public Safety, and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, for the purpose of maintaining statistical records of recidivism, and for diagnosis and classification.(3)

. . . .

(d) Except as provided by Article 15.27, Code of Criminal Procedure, and except for files and records relating to a charge for which a child is transferred under Section 54.02 of this code to a criminal court for prosecution, the law-enforcement files and records are not open to public inspection nor may their contents be disclosed to the public, but inspection of the files and records is permitted by:

(1) a juvenile court having the child before it in any proceeding;

(2) an attorney for a party to the proceeding; and

(3) law-enforcement officers when necessary for the discharge of their official duties. [Emphasis added.]

Despite the repeal of section 51.14, law-enforcement records pertaining to juvenile conduct that occurred prior to the effective date of the repeal continue to be confidential under that section.(4) Because the records at issue pertain to juvenile conduct that occurred prior to January 1, 1996, we conclude that these records are governed by the various subsections of section 51.14 of the Family Code.

It appears that the juvenile who is the subject of the requested records was certified and tried as an adult for many of the offenses for which he was charged. We conclude that any law-enforcement records held by the district attorney that pertain to such offenses are not made confidential under former Family Code section 51.14(d) and that these types of records must be released to the requestor; all remaining law-enforcement records must be withheld from the requestor pursuant to the same provision. On the other hand, because neither subsection (a) or (b) distinguishes records pertaining to a juvenile certified as an adult and one who was not, we conclude that all remaining records held by the district attorney that pertain to proceedings before the juvenile court or to the juvenile's detention and probation must be withheld pursuant to former sections 51.14(a) and 51.14(b), respectively.

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 upon as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have questions about this ruling, please contact our office.

Sincerely,

Emilie Stewart
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

EFS/RWP/eaf

Ref.: ID# 124313

encl. Submitted documents

cc: Ms. Beverly Creggett
13350 North Borough #3116
Houston, Texas 77067
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. Although it is not apparent to this office how the submitted documents correspond to the case file numbers referenced in the records request, we will assume for purposes of this ruling that the submitted documents in fact are responsive to the request.

2. We note that, pursuant to section 552.108(c), the district attorney may not withhold "basic information" about the offense from the requestor. We assume for purposes of this ruling, however, that such information was contained within the documents you have previously released to the requestor.

3. References to the Texas Department of Corrections to mean the institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch 785, 1.19(f).

4. See Act of May 27, 1995, 74th Leg., R.S., ch. 262, 106, 1995 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 2591 (Vernon).
 

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