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Houston May Not Keep Traffic Light Camera Documents Secret

by Matt Clarke

On October 12, 2009, a Texas state district court held that the City of Houston had no right to keep secret over 250 government documents related to the deployment and use of traffic cameras at intersections controlled by traffic lights.

After a Rice University study found that traffic light-controlled intersections equipped with traffic cameras had much higher accident rates than those without cameras, Houston residents Paul Kubosh and Randall Kallinen sought access to documents related to the city’s traffic light camera program.

Houston officials refused to grant access, claiming exemptions under the deliberative process exception to the Texas Public Information Act, § 552.002, Texas Government Code, and attorney-client privilege. Kubosh and Kallinen filed a declaratory judgment action in state district court against the City of Houston, seeking disclosure of the records.

The court granted their motion for summary judgment in part, finding that well over 250 of the documents were subject to disclosure. In doing so, the court found that none of the documents was entitled to deliberative process privilege. Of the documents for which the city had asserted attorney-client privilege, the court held that all but four and parts of two others were entitled to that exemption.

The legal defeat leaves Houston open to having to pay about $80,000 in plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees, with a trial on the amount of attorney’s fees set for Oct. 4, 2010. Kallinen and Kubosh were represented by Houston, Texas attorney Joseph R. Larsen. See: Kallinen v. City of Houston, 295th District Court (Harris County, Texas), Case No. 2008-75633.

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Related legal case

Kallinen v. City of Houston