Jackson v. State Office of Administrative Hearings (Tex. 2011),
No. 10-0002 (Tex. Jul. 1, 2011)(Opinion by Justice Phil Johnson)(open records act request under PIA)
In order to withhold public information requested pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act
(TPIA) a governmental entity must demonstrate that the requested information is not within the
scope of the TPIA or that it falls within one of TPIA’s specific exceptions to the disclosures
requested. See Tex. Gov’t Code §§ 552.101-.148; City of Garland v. Dallas Morning News, 22 S.W.
3d 351, 355-56 (Tex. 2000). In this case, the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH)
refused to disclose certain decisions and orders in license suspension cases related to delinquent
child support. The trial court and court of appeals agreed with SOAH that the information is expressly
excepted from disclosure by the Texas Government Code provisions.
We hold that the decisions and orders must be disclosed after redaction of information expressly
excepted from disclosure and not already in a public record or otherwise in the public domain. We
reverse and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.
Conclusion. The decisions and orders Jackson requested must be disclosed. See Tex. Gov’t Code §
552.002. The Legislature has clearly expressed its intent that exceptions to disclosure be
construed narrowly. See Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.001; In re Georgetown, 53 S.W.3d at 340 (“‘When the
Legislature has intended to make information confidential, it has not hesitated to so provide in express
terms.’” (quoting Birnbaum v. Alliance of Am. Insurers, 994 S.W.2d 766, 776 (Tex. App.—Austin
1999, pet. denied)); see also Cameron v. Terrell & Garrett, Inc., 618 S.W.2d 535, 540 (Tex. 1981)
(“[E]very word of a statute must be presumed to have been used for a purpose. Likewise, we believe
every word excluded from a statute must also be presumed to have been excluded for a purpose.”)
(citations omitted). We decline to read the language of the statute broader than it is written and we
conclude that the purpose and intent of the TPIA can be fulfilled by disclosing the requested
documents with redactions. See City of Fort Worth v. Cornyn, 86 S.W.3d 320, 326 (Tex. App.—
Austin 2002, no pet.) (“To find otherwise would also be inconsistent with the Legislature’s directive to
liberally construe the Act in favor of disclosure.”). We therefore hold that SOAH must disclose the
requested decisions and orders after redaction of any information obtained during provision of
Chapter 231 services, such as information concerning a custodial parent, noncustodial parent, child,
and an alleged or presumed father, that was not already in the public domain.
CASE DETAILS: SAMUEL T. JACKSON v. STATE OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS AND SHELIA
BAILEY TAYLOR IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE, STATE OFFICE OF
ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS; from Travis County; 3rd district (03-07-00293-CV, ___ SW3d ___, 07-30-09)
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and remands the case to the trial court.
Justice Phil Johnson delivered the opinion of the Court. [pdf]
Here is the link to
e-briefs in case no. 10-0002 JACKSON v. STATE OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS
Jackson v. SOAH (Tex. 2011)(Justice Johnson)
TEXT OF OPINION [ coming soon - click on case style for pdf version in the interim]
Also see: Texas Causes of Action | 2011 Texas Supreme Court Opinions | 2011 Tex Sup Ct Per Curiams