By Daniel Fisher
Originally published Oct. 10, 2018
Texas counties that demanded tens of thousands of dollars to provide billing records from outside attorneys representing them in opioid lawsuits have mostly agreed to hand them over for free, after complaints were filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office alleging the cost estimates were excessive and violated the Texas Public Information Act.
A number of counties initially quoted costs of as much as $750 an hour for outside attorneys to review and redact privileged information from billing statements, which are considered public records under Texas law. The cost demands from counties represented by Simon Greenstone Panatier, a Dallas law firm, were remarkably consistent, with Dallas County, population 2.6 million, and Nacogdoches County, population 66,000, each charging $24,190.
The large cost demands appeared to conflict with the Texas Administrative Code, which caps labor charges for locating, compiling and manipulating data for a public information request at $15 an hour.