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January 5, 2000

Ms. Kristi LaRoe
Assistant District Attorney
County of Tarrant
401 West Belknap
Fort Worth, Texas 76196-0201

OR2000-0041

Dear Ms. LaRoe:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 132567.

Tarrant County received a request for "all offense or arrest reports" on a named individual. You seek to withhold the requested information under section 552.101 of the Government Code.

Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision," including information protected by common-law privacy. For information to be protected from public disclosure by the common-law right of privacy under section 552.101, the information must meet the criteria set out in Industrial Foundation v. Texas Industrial Accident Board, 540 S.W.2d 668 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977). In Industrial Foundation, the Texas Supreme Court stated that information is excepted from disclosure if (1) the information contains highly intimate or embarrassing facts the release of which would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person and (2) the information is not of legitimate concern to the public. 540 S.W.2d at 685. In United States Department of Justice v. Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press, 489 U.S. 749 (1989), the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that where an individual's criminal history is compiled or summarized by a governmental entity, the information takes on a character that implicates the individual's right of privacy in a manner that the same individual records in an uncompiled state do not.

In our opinion, the instant request is subject to the Reporters Committee ruling. You must withhold, under the common-law privacy principles set out in that case, any information responsive to the request in which the individual in question is treated as a suspect, arrestee, or defendant.

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,

William Walker
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

WMW/ljp

Ref: ID# 132567

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Arthur Creech
304 S. Record Street
Dallas, Texas 75202
(w/o enclosures)


 

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