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April 3, 2000

Mr. Joe F. Grubbs
County and District Attorney
County of Ellis
Ellis County Courthouse
Waxahachie, Texas 75165-3759

OR2000-1284

Dear Mr. Grubbs:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Texas Government Code. Your request was assigned ID#133845.

The Ellis County District Attorney ("the County") received a request for a juvenile case file. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Section 552.101 encompasses confidentiality provisions such as Family Code section 58.007. Juvenile law enforcement records relating to conduct that occurred on or after September 1, 1997 are confidential under section 58.007. The relevant language of section 58.007(c) states:

(c) Except as provided by Subsection (d), law enforcement records and files concerning a child and information stored, by electronic means or otherwise, concerning the child from which a record or file could be generated may not be disclosed to the public and shall be:

(1) if maintained on paper or microfilm, kept separate from adult files and records;

(2) if maintained electronically in the same computer system as records or files relating to adults, be accessible under controls that are separate and distinct from controls to access electronic data concerning adults; and

(3) maintained on a local basis only and not sent to a central state or federal depository, except as provided by Subchapter B.

Fam. Code 58.007(c). The information at issue involves juvenile delinquent conduct that occurred after September 1, 1997. It does not appear that any of the exceptions in section 58.007(b) apply. Accordingly, the requested information is made confidential by section 58.007 of the Family Code and must be withheld from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code.

You additionally inquire whether the requestor, a step-parent of the subject juvenile, has a special right of access to the information under section 552.023 of the Government Code. The relevant language of section 552.023 of the Government Code provides:

(a) A person or person's authorized representative has a special right of access, beyond the right of the general public, to information held by a governmental body that relates to the person and is protected from public disclosure by laws intended to protect that person's privacy interests.

As the requestor in the present case is neither the subject juvenile nor does the information you have provided indicate the requestor to be an authorized representative of the subject juvenile, we find section 552.023 of the Government Code to be inapplicable. Moreover, the information at issue is governed by section 58.007 of the Family Code. The access provisions of section 58.007 do not provide for release of the information to the requestor.

Because we have resolved this issue under section 58.007, we do not address your alternative argument. 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,

Michael Garbarino
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

MG/CHS/ljp

Ref: ID# 133845

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Ms. Tamara M. Yarbrough
815 Cantrell Street
Waxahachie, Texas 75165
(w/o enclosures)


 

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