Dates-of-birth are confidential as a matter of law under PIA says 3rd Court of Appeals

Ken Paxton, Attorney General of the State of Texas v. City of Dallas, 03-13-00546-CV (Tex. App. –Austin, May 22, 2015)

This is a Public Information Act (“PIA”) case where the trial court held the birth dates of certain members of the general public are confidential as a matter of law and exempt from disclosure.  The Third Court of Appeals affirmed.

The City received several unrelated PIA requests, but all contained dates-of-birth of members of the general public the City sought to redact under common law privacy. The Texas Attorney General (“AG”) opined the information was public and must be released. The City appealed the opinions and combined the various requests into a single matter. Both the City and AG moved for summary judgment.  The trial court ruled in favor of the City and the AG appealed.

Under the common-law right of privacy, an individual has a right to be free from the publicizing of private affairs in which the public has no legitimate concern. Citing to  Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts v. Attorney General of Texas, 354 S.W.3d 336 (Tex. 2010), the court held the general public has a “nontrivial privacy interest” in their birth dates, arising from concerns about the potential for and growing problem of identity theft and fraud. Citing to the AG’s own publications on the web, the court noted “[t]he Attorney General has observed that preventing identity theft ‘begins by reducing the number of places where your personal information can be found.’” Citing Preventing Identity Theft, FIGHTING IDENTITY THEFT, http://www.texasfightsidtheft.gov/preventing.shtml ).  The court held dates-of-birth of citizens is confidential as a matter of law by judicial decision and the public has no legitimate interest in its release.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Justice Puryear, Justice Goodwin, and Justice Field.  Majority Opinion given by Justice Field.  The attorneys listed for the Appellant are Ms. Kimberly L. Fuchs and Mr. Matthew R. Entsminger. The attorney listed for the Appellee is Mr. James B. Pinson.