Rep. Jim Keffer (R-Eastland) has filed HB 2061 as a first step to resolving this complicated issue, and this morning, the bill was referred to the House Energy Resources Committee. The House suspended the posting rule, and Energy Resources, chaired by Rep. Rick Hardcastle (R-Vernon), will hold a hearing on the bill at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28, in Room E2.016 of the Capitol Extension.
My county clerk has just come to me in a panic, stating that the Fort Bend County Atty (the author of the request for the fateful GA-0519) has told HIS clerk to redact not only SSN's from documents, but also all personal information, including, for example, driver's license numbers. I think this is going beyong the scope of GA-0519, and that any redaction other than SSNs might have to be cleared by the AG before the redacted document can be released. I'd be interested in hearing other opinions.
Also, based on fn 7 to the opinion, I am redacting all SSNs from any discovery I send out, as least for the time being.
What do y'all think about the correctness of the opinion to start with? After reading the opinion and then actually looking at the statutes which it cites, I was rather disgusted by the quality of the opinion. Statutes are cited as saying things they don't such as stating that Section 11.08 of the Property Code authorizes collecting or maintaining social security numbers when that statute actually allows individuals to strike that information and requires a notice of that fact to be posted. I think a lot less of our AG after this one. It was not a very thoughtful or thourough legal opinion.
Posts: 29 | Location: Baird, TX USA | Registered: April 14, 2005
I have not thought of Baird in a long time. Yes the opinion is wrong on many levels. I have heard that I may get a chance to speak at TDCAA Annual in Corpus when this opinion is ancient history. At that time I will explain all the things wrong with this opinion.
So this is a shameless plug for you to attend the TDCAA Annual in Corpus this year.
this is the article about in the houston chronicle.
Order that paralyzed clerks' offices suspended
By GARY SCHARRER Copyright 2007 Austin Bureau
AUSTIN � Attorney General Greg Abbott has withdrawn temporarily an opinion banning the disclosure of Social Security numbers after his decision paralyzed some county clerk offices around the state.
The 60-day suspension gives the Legislature some time to fix the problem.
"For the next 60 days, everything is business as usual (at the courthouses)," House Ways and Means Chairman Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, said after canceling a hearing on emergency legislation to address Abbott's ruling. "Now we have 60 days to try to make sure that we don't cause more problems than we are trying to solve."
In his letter to Fort Bend County Attorney Roy Cordes Jr., Abbott recognized the consequences of his recent opinion, which brought "a virtual halt to a tremendous amount of business and commerce in Texas."
Because lawmakers signaled their intent to address the conflict immediately, Abbott said he suspended his opinion, meaning it has "no force or effect" for the 60 days.
Earlier, Abbott had said Social Security numbers for living people are confidential and must be exempted from required disclosure under the state's Public Information Act. But the ruling created unmanageable complications for county clerks responsible for decades-old documents that often contain many Social Security numbers, publicly filed during previous eras when they weren't valuable tools for identity thieves.
Many county clerks closed their operations, which halted real estate and other transactions.
"I do appreciate the attorney general staff's willingness to work with us on this. The process can work if people don't go nuclear," Keffer said.
In the old days the AG would pull it and all you would find is the letter pulling it. But this one still has the opinion at the end.
The problems with the legislative bills presently include the extremes. Deleting 552.147 returns us to the days where we have to ask the Attorney General to delete SSN every time we have an open record request. However, if AG is going to misinterpret 552.147 to reach this kind of result maybe it should sink in a watery grave. Sadly, with Scott B. gone on a well-deserved vacation or at least not answering his email my sounding board for some of these ideas is muted.
Our office will have some sort of support for some kind of bill in the next few days. Hopefully, the sponsor for one of these many fixes will be persuaded to add the fix.
In two requests for open records decisions (prior to this opinion and the statute) I was told by the AG that the social security numbers over which my county clerk was concerned were not confidential and did not need to be redacted.
The analysis in this opinion is completely opposite that I received, albeit before the PIA was amended by this section.
I am not sure how you protect social security numbers, but still not shut down the commerce that is conducted via the county clerk's office.
Posts: 364 | Location: Plainview, Hale County | Registered: January 11, 2005
Attorney General Abbott has abated GA 519 for a period of 60 days to allow the Legislature time to deliberate and act on the conclusions reached in the opinion. You may read Abbott's letter of abeyance at:
One possible solution is for the legislature to declare dislosure of an SSN improper only if done with some intent to harm. Also, there might be a provision, shopuld some appropriate question might arise, for a court to override Chapter 552 strictures. As an example, a criminal court could grant a discovery order authorizing the prosecutor, if he chooses, to open his files to defense counsel.
Posts: 171 | Location: Belton, Texas, USA | Registered: April 26, 2001