City failed to establish risk of injury to the public or specific individuals if information was release under PIA

The City of Carrollton v Ken Paxton, Attorney General of Texas, No. 03-13-00838-CV (Tex. App. – Austin, April 14, 2016)

This is another Public Information Act (“PIA”) case involving requestor Steven Benzer to come out within the two weeks. The first opinion summary can be found here.

In this case the court made numerous references to its recent opinion which the panel cited as Carrollton I. In Carrollton I, Benzer requested police information regarding his neighbors and various police activities in the area. The Austin Court of Appeals held most of the information should be withheld as it was not “basic information” as opined by the Attorney General. In this case, Benzer also requested a large amount of police information regarding his neighborhood as well as some ordinance information. The City urged that Benzer’s history of violent crime, including violence against the neighbors with whom he seems to continually find antagonism. However, the evidence ultimately falls short of raising a fact issue as to whether or why release of the specific information at issue would create a substantial risk of physical harm at the hands of Benzer or anyone else. Further as far as the “basic information” goes, the relevant inquiry is instead whether the substance or content of the information, as opposed merely to its form, qualifies under Tex. Gov’t Code. §552.108(c). In this case, unlike Carrollton I, the officers determined crimes had been committed, so the basic information definition applies. Additionally, the “mug shots” of Benzer’s neighbors, alone, are not protected by privacy interests. Finally, the City failed to establish an abuse of discretion in awarding attorney’s fees to the Attorney General under §552.323.

If you would like to read this opinion click here.  Opinion given by Chief Justice Rose and Justice Pemberton.  Memorandum opinion given by Justice Pemberton.  Attorney for the Appellee is Matthew R. Entsminger.  Attorneys for the Appellant are George E. Hyde and Scott M. Tschirhart.

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