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September 7, 2000

Mr. John B. Dahill
Advisory Chief
Dallas County
Administration Building
411 Elm Street
Dallas, Texas 75202

OR2000-3458

Dear Mr. Dahill:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 139446.

The Dallas County District Clerk (the "district clerk") received a request for the "names and addresses of those Dallas County residents who were summoned to appear as jurors in Dallas County courts and a list of those who failed to respond to the summons or who failed to show up for court during the last year (since July 1, 1999)." You claim that the requested information constitutes records of the judiciary that are not subject to the Public Information Act (the "Act") under section 552.003 of the Government Code. We have considered your argument and reviewed the submitted representative sample of information.(1)

The Act generally requires the public disclosure of information maintained by a "governmental body." While the Act's definition of a "governmental body" is broad, it specifically excludes the judiciary. See Gov't Code 552.003(1)(B). In determining whether a governmental entity falls within the judiciary exception of the Act, this office looks to whether the entity is acting in a judicial capacity or solely in an administrative capacity. See Open Records Decision No. 646 at 2-3 (1996) (citing Benavides v. Lee, 665 S.W.2d 151 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 1983, no writ)).

Chapter 62 of the Government Code, which deals with the judicial branch, provides for the compilation of a list of prospective jurors. See Gov't Code 62.001-62.011 (detailing jury list selection methods such as a jury wheel and electronic or mechanical selection). Section 62.012 of the Government Code provides the following:

(a) When a justice of the peace or a county or district judge requires a jury for a particular week, the judge, within a reasonable time before the prospective jurors are summoned, shall notify the county clerk, for a county court jury, or the district clerk, for a justice or district court jury, to open the next consecutively numbered envelope containing a jury list that is in the clerk's possession and has not been opened. The judge shall also notify the clerk of the date that the prospective jurors are to be summoned to appear for jury service.

(b) On receiving the notice from the judge, the clerk shall immediately write on the jury list the date that the prospective jurors are to be summoned to appear and shall deliver the jury list to:

(1) the sheriff, for a county or district court jury; or

(2) the sheriff or constable, for a justice court jury.

Gov't Code 62.012. Upon receipt of the jury list, the sheriff summons the prospective jurors to appear on the designated day. Gov't Code 62.013. Chapter 19 of the Code of Criminal Procedure outlines a similar procedure for the selection of prospective grand jurors. In Open Records Decision No. 433 (1986), this office determined that a list of prospective grand jurors is a record of the judiciary because the list is "compiled, and at virtually all times is maintained, by the jury commissioners, the district judge, or the court clerk, all of whom are part of the judiciary or agents thereof." ORD 433 at 2-3. We also found that the sheriff was considered an agent of the judiciary when using the grand jury list to summon the jurors for service. Id.

Likewise, the district clerk maintains the jury list on behalf and at the direction of the judiciary and the sheriff uses the jury list to summon the prospective jurors at the direction of the judiciary. Further, the prospective jury list is created and maintained solely for judicial purposes. Thus, we conclude that the list of prospective jurors and those who failed to report for jury duty constitutes records of the judiciary under section 552.003. Thus, the district clerk has no obligation under the Act regarding the release of the requested information.(2)(3)

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,

Jennifer Bialek
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JHB\er

Ref: ID# 139446

Encl: Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Charles Siderius
Staff Writer
Observer
P.O. Box 190789
Dallas, Texas 75219
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. In reaching our conclusion here, we assume that the "representative sample" of records submitted to this office is truly representative of the requested records as a whole. See Open Records Decision Nos. 499 (1988), 497 (1988). This open records letter does not reach, and therefore does not authorize the withholding of, any other requested records to the extent that those records contain substantially different types of information than that submitted to this office.

2. The release of the requested information is within the discretion of the court. See Open Records Decision No. 646 at 4 n. 3 (1996) (citing Open Records Decision No. 236 at 2-3 (1980)).


 

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