Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin
THE 261ST DISTRICT COURT OF TRAVIS COUNTY NO.
D-1-GN-17-004329, THE HONORABLE DUSTIN M. HOWELL, JUDGE
Justices Goodwin, Baker, and Smith.
J. Baker, Justice.
Paxton, the Attorney General of the State of Texas, appeals
the trial court's final summary judgment that David A.
Escamilla, the Travis County Attorney, is not required to
disclose deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) records due to
exceptions to the Texas Public Information Act (PIA). We will
affirm the trial court's judgment.
County Attorney received a PIA request for each DPA that his
office has executed in domestic-violence cases since April 1,
is an extra-judicial agreement between a person charged with a
crime and the prosecutor to defer the prosecution of a
criminal charge for an agreed term during which the criminal
defendant must fulfill specified conditions. After the
defendant and the prosecutor sign the DPA, the criminal case
is conditionally dismissed. If the defendant fulfills all the
DPA conditions, the County Attorney takes no further action
as the criminal case was already dismissed. However, if the
defendant fails to comply with any of the agreement
conditions, the County Attorney has the authority to refile
the charges and prosecute the case.
County Attorney declined to release the DPAs and sought an
opinion from the Attorney General's Open Records
Division, asserting that the requested records were excepted
from required public disclosure. See Tex. Gov't
Code § 552.301 (outlining procedures for obtaining
Attorney General decisions about whether requested
information falls within exception). The Attorney General
issued Open Records Letter Ruling OR2017-16049 in response,
determining that the DPAs whose terms had concluded could be
withheld pursuant to a provision of the law-enforcement
exception, see id. § 552.108(a)(2), but the
DPAs with terms that had not concluded were not excepted from
disclosure and must be released. See Tex. Att'y
Gen. OR2017-16049 (2017).
County Attorney timely filed suit seeking declaratory relief
from the Attorney General's determination. See
Tex. Gov't Code § 552.324 (permitting suits to
challenge letter ruling of Attorney General on PIA requests).
The parties each filed motions for summary judgment, and the
trial court at a hearing on the cross-motions reviewed in
camera a sample of the records at issue. See id.
§ 552.3221 (providing for court's in camera
inspection of records at issue). After the hearing the trial
court granted the County Attorney's summary-judgment
motion and denied the Attorney General's cross-motion.
The trial court's final judgment declared and ordered
that all of the DPAs were excepted from disclosure, dividing
them into three categories:
(1) The deferred prosecution agreements pertaining to
dismissed criminal cases that have not been refiled [Category
1 DPAs] are excepted from public disclosure by section
552.108(a)(2) of the Texas Government Code;
(2) The deferred prosecution agreements pertaining to
dismissed criminal cases that have been refiled and then
dismissed again [Category 2 DPAs] are excepted from public
disclosure by section 552.108(a)(2) of the Texas Government
(3) The deferred prosecution agreements pertaining to
dismissed criminal cases that have been refiled and that are
still pending [Category 3 DPAs] are excepted from public
disclosure by sections 552.108(a)(1), 552.103, and 552.107 of
the Texas Government Code.