Abbott wants court records available on USB drive

Jessica M. Karmasek Nov. 29, 2010, 1:40pm


AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline) - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott earlier this month issued a ruling in a public records issue that orders a county court to catch up technologically.

In a three-page letter dated Nov. 18 to Noe Lopez, office manager for the Hidalgo County Clerk's Office, Abbott wrote that the office must release public records on a USB drive, as requested.

Houston-based Integrity Title Records, which provides customers access to a searchable database of land records for research, had tried for a year to obtain an electronic copy of the county's index of title records, digital copies of each record, and the maps.

The clerk's office had refused to transfer the records onto Integrity's USB drive, claiming the ports on all of their computers were disabled under the county's security policy and the county's records vendor, which prohibited it from attaching additional hardware to leased computers.

Instead, the clerk's office offered to burn the data onto more than 1,000 CDs at a cost of $87,430. Integrity subsequently filed a cost complaint with the attorney general in August 2009.

Abbott, this month, ruled that a USB drive is a storage device like a CD or a DVD, "and we note the county clerk routinely uses CDs."

"By refusing to furnish the information to the requestor in the requested medium of a USB drive on the basis of an agreement entered into by the county clerk with ACS, or a security policy adopted by the county clerk that requires dsiabling of the USB ports on the county clerk's computers, the county clerk has failed to comply with section 552.268 of the Government Code," the attorney general wrote.

Basically, if the clerk's office does not have a working USB drive, they must buy one, Abbott said.

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