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March 6, 2000

Mr. Thomas F. Keever
Assistant District Attorney
Denton County
P.O. Box 2850
Denton, Texas 76202

OR2000-0898

Dear Mr. Keever:

You ask on behalf of Denton County Judge Kirk Wilson (the "county judge") whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your requests were assigned ID#'s 133720, 133815, 133948, 133974, 133949, 133972, and 133976.

The county judge received requests for all memoranda, letters, reports, directives, e-mail, telephone message slips, or other writings either produced or received by the county judge or his staff for the dates of January 11, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, and 21, 2000 with regard to twenty-one listed subject areas. In this instance, the requestor has submitted the same open records request to the county judge on a daily basis. But see Attorney General Opinion JM-48 at 2 (1983) (governmental body not required to comply with standing request for information to be collected or prepared in future); Open Records Decision Nos. 452 at 3 (1986) (open records request applies only to information in existence at time request is received), 362 at 2 (1983) (governmental body not required to supply information not in its possession). You first assert that the office of the county judge is not a governmental body, as defined by section 552.003(1)(A) of the Government Code, and instead is a judicial office that is excluded from the scope of chapter 552 of the Public Information Act (the "Act"). You also contend that the Act does not require a governmental body to provide access to information requested on such a broad, generalized basis. Rather, citing section 552.222 of the Government Code as authority, you contend that the requestor should be required to narrow the scope of his request to specify the type of correspondence sought or the specific subject matter of the requested correspondence. You have submitted no documents you wish to withhold.

In subsequent correspondence with this office, you state that you acknowledge that Open Records Letter No. 2000-0254 (2000) is controlling as to the two questions you raise. Open Records Letter No. 2000-0254 concluded that, to the extent that the requestor seeks information that does not pertain to cases and proceedings before the constitutional county court, the office of the County Judge of Denton County is a governmental body subject to the requirements of chapter 552 of the Government Code. Furthermore, we concluded that the request, while encompassing numerous facets of county business, is sufficiently clear and understandable to inform the county judge of the records being requested, as is evidenced by your ability to identify records responsive to the requests.

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 Dep't 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,

Yen-Ha Le
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

YHL/cwt

Ref: ID#'s 133720, 133815, 133948,

133974, 133949, 133972, 133976

cc: Mr. Charles Siderius
Staff Writer
Denton Publishing Company
P.O. Box 369
Denton, Texas 76201


 

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