In an answer filed on Friday, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott denies all allegations in a suit the State Bar of Texas filed after the Office of the Attorney General decided the Bar must release personnel memorandums and some records of the Commission for Lawyer Discipline.
Abbott asked the 250th District Court in Travis County “to enter a final judgment that declares the information at issue to be subject to disclosure and orders that Plaintiff State Bar of Texas take nothing by reason of its suit,” says the Oct. 7 Defendant’s Plea to the Jurisdiction and Original Answer. OAG spokesperson Tom Kelley says the answer is “standard” and it’s hard for him to predict how long it could take to resolve the case.
The Bar sued on Aug. 29, alleging the AG “failed to apply the proper legal standard” in an open-records decision connected with a Texas Public Information Act (TPIA) request by Julie Oliver, executive director of the Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability.
The Bar alleges it released "most" of the records, but it sought an open records decision before releasing others.
In the Aug. 12 opinion, the AG's office concluded certain records the Bar prepares and holds for the Commission for Lawyer Discipline are subject to the public information act, instead of rules of the Texas Supreme Court, and the Bar must release certain "personnel memorandums.”
The Bar alleges in the petition in State Bar of Texas v. Abbottthat the judiciary is not subject to the TPIA, and the Commission for Lawyer Discipline is "part of the judiciary."
The Bar alleges the personnel memorandums are for an employee who "made a lateral change, with no change in pay or grade" and release of the information "could easily be misunderstood and would likely, as a result, be highly embarrassing."
Jennifer Riggs, president and shareholder of Riggs Aleshire & Ray in Austin who represents the State Bar, says the Bar’s position is the OAG didn’t apply the correct balancing test on the employee-privacy issue and that, as part of the judiciary, the Commission for Lawyer Discipline “has the right to control its own records.”
-- Angela Morris