|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
July 14, 2000
Mr. M. Shannon Kackley
Dear Mr. Kackley:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 138556.
The City of Garland (the "city") received a request for "information concerning many different Garland addresses over a two year period." You have released certain responsive information to the requestor. You claim that the submitted information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and have 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 information made confidential by statute. You assert that certain documents you have submitted are excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 58.007 of the Family Code. Juvenile law enforcement records relating to conduct that occurred on or after September 1, 1997 are confidential under section 58.007 of the Family Code. Fam. Code § 58.007(c). The relevant language of section 58.007(c), as amended by the Seventy-sixth Legislature, reads as follows:
(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.
We agree that the documents we have marked involve juvenile conduct that occurred after September 1, 1997. It does not appear that any of the exceptions in section 58.007 apply to the information at issue. Thus, you must withhold the marked documents in their entirety.
You claim that certain documents contained in the information are excepted from disclosure pursuant to section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 261.201 of the Family Code. Section 261.201(a) provides that
(a) The following information is confidential, is not subject to public release under Chapter 552, Government Code, and may be disclosed only for purposes consistent with this code and applicable federal or state law or under rules adopted by an investigating agency:
(1) a report of alleged or suspected abuse or neglect made under this chapter and the identity of the person making the report; and
(2) except as otherwise provided in this section, the files, reports, records, communications, audiotapes, videotapes, and working papers used or developed in an investigation under this chapter or in providing services as a result of an investigation.
The requested information here consists of "files, reports, records, communications, audiotapes, videotapes, and working papers used or developed" in an investigation conducted under chapter 261 of the Family Code. Family Code §§ 261.001(1)(a)(C), 261.103(1). We believe subsection (a) is applicable to some of the submitted documents, and we have marked these documents accordingly. The city must withhold in its entirety the marked information.
You have marked certain information which you claim is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code. As noted above, section 552.101 encompasses the doctrine of common law privacy. For information to be protected from public disclosure under the common law right of privacy, the information must meet the criteria set out in Industrial Foundation v. Texas Industrial Accident Bd., 540 S.W.2d 668 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977). The court stated that information . . . is excepted from mandatory disclosure under Section 3(a)(1) as information deemed confidential by law if (1) the information contains highly intimate or embarrassing facts the publication 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; Open Records Decision No. 142 at 4 (1976) (construing statutory predecessor to Gov't Code § 552.101). In Industrial Foundation, the Texas Supreme Court considered intimate and embarrassing information such as that relating to sexual assault, pregnancy, mental or physical abuse in the workplace, illegitimate children, psychiatric treatment of mental disorders, attempted suicide, and injuries to sexual organs. 540 S.W.2d at 683; see also Open Records Decision Nos. 470 (1987) (concluding that fact that a person broke out in hives as a result of severe emotional distress is excepted by common law privacy), 455 (1987) (concluding that kinds of prescription drugs a person is taking are protected by common law privacy), 343 (1982) (concluding that information regarding drug overdoses, acute alcohol intoxication, obstetrical/gynecological illnesses, convulsions/ seizures, or emotional/mental distress is protected by common law privacy). We agree that the information you have marked must withhold under section 552.101 in conjunction with the common law right to privacy. You must release to the requestor the remaining information contained in the report.
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.
Carla Gay Dickson
Ref: ID# 138556
Encl. Marked documents
cc: Mr. Craig S. Gardner
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US