September 22, 2007
DPS' quixotic fight against the Observer

Almost a year ago, the Texas Observer won a ruling in court against the Department of Public Safety that ordered DPS to turn over security camera footage from the second floor hallway behind the House chamber to see if GOP sugar daddy James Leininger was there lobbying for a school voucher bill. While that decision is currently under appeal (the Third Court of Appeals will hear it next month), you might like to know how DPS has been spending your tax dollars defending themselves. Here's the Observer to tell you.

On September 13, 2005, a lawyer at the prestigious firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP devoted 20 minutes, apparently, to reading an article in The Texas Observer. We'd be flattered, were it not for the fact that you -- the taxpayers -- were billed $75 for the effort.

That's just one of the tidbits we've found so far in the billing records of attorneys retained by the state Department of Public Safety to fend off a request for public records filed by the Observer.

To date, taxpayers have ponied up about $166,000 in legal fees to bankroll DPS' absurd legal stalling action. Legal bills, like runes and entrails, can be a bit hard to read at times. So we're posting all of them here and inviting lawyers and non-lawyers alike to dive in. We trust you'll share your discoveries with us.

Also included are briefs and legal documents from the Observer's protracted battle with the state Department of Public Safety. After DPS rejected our request for information, Attorney General Greg Abbott's office instructed it to comply. DPS instead sued Abbott's office, in effect asking a state district judge to overrule the attorney general's interpretation of open records laws.

If you have some legal knowledge and a little time to kill, go help them out. You never know what you might find.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 22, 2007 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles