|Submitted||June 26, 2021|
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To Whom It May Concern:
Pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act, I hereby request the following records:
All communication between Collin County and Attorney S. Lee Merritt regarding Marvin Scott, III. This includes scheduling meetings, discussion of payment/settlements, and copies of checks written to the Scott family.
The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.
In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.
Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 10 business days, as the statute requires.
We are processing your request for "All communication between Collin County and Attorney S. Lee Merritt regarding Marvin Scott, III. This includes scheduling meetings, discussion of payment/settlements, and copies of checks written to the Scott family," and need to explain two things regarding this content:
Texas open records law allows a government body to keep negotiations, settlements, communications and the like confidential for an imminent or pending lawsuit against that government body while the lawsuit or negotiations are active.
Section 552.103: Litigation or Settlement Negotiations Involving the State or a Political Subdivision
Section 552.103(a) of the Government Code, commonly referred to as the "litigation exception," excepts from required public disclosure:
[I]nformation relating to litigation of a civil or criminal nature to which the state or a political subdivision is or may be a party or to which an officer or employee of the state or a political subdivision, as a consequence of the person's office or employment, is or may be a party. Section 552.103(a) was intended to prevent the use of the Public Information Act as a method of avoiding the rules of discovery used in litigation.
We filed an Attorney General opinion request on July 7, 2021 (attached), to withhold other county documents related to the Marvin Scott III case which will explain what is going on. It explains the law in a little more detail, and what is happening as far as any negotiations or litigation involving the Scott family. There have been no checks written to any of the Scott family at this time. There is no settlement at this time, either.
Generally, when parties to litigation have inspected the records pursuant to a court order, discovery, or through any other means, section 552.103(a) may no longer be invoked. And, once litigation is neither reasonably anticipated nor pending, section 552.103(a) is no longer applicable. That is, the court would make documents available through the clerks, or the government body would handle release where it does not involve privileged attorney-client communications.
Additionally, you may wish to clarify or revamp your request for "all communication between Collin County and Attorney S. Lee Merritt." First and foremost, Mr. Merritt's law firm may be handling negotiations and any possible settlements or subsequent lawsuit, but he is not the attorney of record handling the issue. Second, this broad of a request - "Collin County" - could easily fold in the District Attorney's communications, which would trigger yet another Attorney General opinion.
Apologies for the long-winded reply, but I thought you should have the proper information to decide what to do next.
This leaves you with two options:
1) Withdraw your request while the Attorney General decides if the County is allowed to withhold material mentioned in the attached document. This may take around 60 days for the AG to process and reply to us, at which time we will notify you of the results. The material, to be clear, is not the same as what you have requested, but the litigation issue is right on point.
2) Require the county to submit another AG opinion request on this issue.
The county cannot make those decisions, they are completely up to you, and I am only trying to avoid what boils down to a redundant request to the AG.
Please let me know in writing what you would prefer we do.
Public Information Officer, Collin County Government
2300 Bloomdale Rd. | Suite #4154 | McKinney, TX 75071