Many of you want to know more about Texas Open Records. My open records 101 details the process I use to get open records. In an effort to further educate the public, and train more citizens to pursue open records, I have cut and pasted this FAQ from the Texas Attorney General.
What is the Public Information Act?
The Public Information Act, formerly known as the Open Records Act, is located at chapter 552 of the Government Code. The Act provides a mechanism for citizens to inspect or copy government records. It also provides for instances in which governmental bodies wish to, or are required by law to, withhold government records from the public.
What types of records are subject to the Public Information Act?
Any information collected, assembled, or maintained by or for a governmental body is subject to the Public Information Act. The format (paper, electronic, microfilm, etc.) of the record does not affect its status as a public record.
What is a “governmental body”?
For purposes of the Public Information Act, the term “governmental body” encompasses all Texas public entities at the state and local levels. It does not include the judiciary. Private entities may be considered governmental bodies if they are supported in whole or in part by public funds or they expend public funds. The Public Information Act does not apply, however, to private persons or businesses simply because they provide goods or services under a contract with a governmental body.For purposes of the Public Information Act, a governmental body includes all governmental entities with the exception of the judiciary. In addition, some non-governmental entities that receive public funds are considered governmental bodies. –>
How can I request records of the judiciary?
Many court records are available for inspection or copying at the court clerk’s office. However, records of the judiciary do not fall under the Public Information Act. To request records of the judiciary, the request must be in writing and must be addressed to the court’s custodian of records. For more information about requesting and withholding records of the judiciary, click here.
How do I make a public information request?
The request must be in writing and must be addressed to the governmental body. While the request does not need to be addressed to any particular person, it is a good practice to clearly label your correspondence as a “Public Information Request” or “Open Records Request.” Requests sent via fax or email must be addressed to the public information officer or to the person designated by that officer to receive such requests.
What should I say in my public information request?
No “magic language” is required to trigger the Public Information Act. You should, however, make the request as clear and as specific as possible. This will enable the governmental body to identify exactly what information you are requesting.
How long does the governmental body have to respond to my request for information?
The Act provides that a governmental body must respond “promptly” to a request for information. If a governmental body is unable to produce the requested information within ten business days, the officer for public information must send you correspondence certifying that he is unable to do so and he must set a date and time when the records will be available to you.
May a governmental body ask me why I want the records?
No, a governmental body is forbidden from inquiring about the purpose for which the records will be used. However, if a request is unclear or very broad, the governmental body may ask the requestor to more clearly identify or narrow his or her request. Additionally, a governmental body may require additional identifying information to determine that the requestor is eligible to receive certain types of information.
When may a governmental body refuse to release the information I request?
If the information you request falls within one of the exceptions to disclosure found in the Public Information Act, the governmental body may refuse to release the information while it seeks an open records decision from the Attorney General. Unless the governmental body has a previous determination from a court or the Attorney General regarding the precise information requested, a governmental body cannot determine on its own to withhold information.