The State Bar of Texas wants a court to strike an intervenor from the Bar’s suit against Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott over his office’s decision that the Bar must release some records under the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA).
The Bar claims, among other things, that the plea in intervention asks the court for a declaratory judgment and “an advisory opinion on issues outside of the initial lawsuit,” and the TPIA doesn’t authorize the court to take those actions.
Julie Oliver, executive director of the Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability, requested the records in May 2011. The AG’s office decided on Aug. 12, 2011, that the Bar must release some of the records, but the Bar filed State Bar v. Abbott on Aug. 29, 2011, claiming the AG’s office “failed to apply the proper legal standard” in the open-records decision. Abbott denied all the allegations in the suit on Oct. 7, 2011.
Then Oliver filed a plea in intervention on Nov. 22, 2011, asking the court to uphold the AG’s opinion. She also alleged the State Bar had adopted a policy of not retaining or producing “email and text messages that concern official Bar business but that are sent using private email or text message accounts.” She asked the court to determine if the Bar was withholding such alleged messages, and, if it was, to issue a declaratory judgment that the Bar had to release them.
But the Bar claims in its Jan. 12 Plea to the Jurisdiction and Motion to Strike Plea in Interventionthat Oliver lacks standing to intervene in the suit because the Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability made the TPIA request, but Oliver filed the plea in intervention under her own name.
The Bar also argues it is “part of the judiciary” and it is “not subject to suit for declaratory judgment by a complainant under the TPIA.”
The Bar argues that Oliver states “a new policy has been adopted” but that “there is no such alleged policy.” Her “new request for information is an improper attempt to expand the scope of this TPIA lawsuit. This court lacks jurisdiction to render answers to questions that have not been asked prior to this appeal,” the Bar argues, continuing, “[T]he issues in Oliver’s intervention are not ripe and seek a purely advisory opinion from this Court.”
The Bar’s lawyer in the suit, Jennifer Riggs, president of and shareholder in Riggs Aleshire & Ray in Austin, and Oliver and her lawyer, Joe Crews, partner in Crews Law Firm in Austin, each didn’t return a telephone message seeking comment before deadline.
-- Angela Morris