By Joe Larsen
Gregor Cassidy, PLLC
Board Member, FOI Foundation of Texas
Originally published Dec. 7, 2018, in the Texas Tribune
The once-robust Texas Public Information Act lies bleeding. The Texas Supreme Court’s decision this year to deny a newspaper’s petition for review of the opinion of the 1st Court of Appeals in the case of Nehls v. Hartman Newspapers is the latest deep cut. Nehls effectively nullifies the provision of the PIA that says a court shall award attorneys’ fees to a requestor who substantially prevails against a governmental body in a lawsuit to require release of public information. In other words, the requestor must pay a tax in the form of attorneys’ fees to get public information, even where the governmental body does not reasonably rely on recognized legal authority in refusing to release the information.
Each branch of our Texas government has had its share of responsibility for the death of this foundational law of open government in Texas, and the legislative season opens again. However, the denial of petition in Nehls will continue a series of cases by the Texas Supreme Court that have all but killed the PIA, including: