Court has no jurisdiction to order destruction of PIA records outside of Travis County says Dallas Court of Appeals.

In Re: Texas Department of Public Safety, 05-13-00882-CV (Tex. App. – Dallas, August 5, 2013).

This is a mandamus proceeding involving a protective order prohibiting the release of information under the Texas Public Information Act (“PIA”).

The Texas Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) stopped one Randy Travis for driving while intoxicated and recorded the stop on a dashboard video camera. DPS received a request under the PIA for the video and requested an opinion from the Texas Attorney General (“AG”) regarding whether it must be released. The AG determined portions had to be redacted, but ultimately the video must be released. Travis sued the AG in Travis County District Court seeking to exempt the video from production under the PIA.  In the meantime, Travis pled guilty to the DUI. However, Travis convinced the Grayson County Court at Law to issue a protective order requiring the video be destroyed. DPS filed this mandamus seeking relief from the County Court order.

The Dallas Court of Appeals held the clear language of the PIA holds the trial court had no jurisdiction to interfere with a PIA request.  Travis has a mechanism to contest the AG ruling and is doing so under the PIA in Travis County [which has mandatory venue for such matters].  The trial court, and the Dallas Court of Appeals, lack jurisdiction to interfere with the process, let alone compel destruction of public records. Accordingly, the court conditionally granted the writ of mandamus relieving DPS of the obligation to destroy the video.

If you wish to read this opinion click here.