Our attorneys frequently receive these questions. Please click on any question to see the answer.
The Texas Public Information Act gives the public the right to look at or copy government information. Any member of the public may request access to this information. The request must be in writing and must be addressed to the governmental body. Currently, all public information requests are handled by the Office of General Counsel. Requests for information sent to other departments will be forwarded to the Office of General Counsel.
Information must be provided within a reasonable time. The governmental body must inform the requestor if it will take more than 10 days to make the information available. How long it takes to make information available depends on how easily accessible the information is, whether the records contain confidential information that must be removed prior to making it available, and whether the information has to be obtained from a computer.
Most but not all information is available to the public. Generally, if the UNT System or one of its component institutions wishes to withhold information from the public because the information is confidential or otherwise not required to be disclosed under the Public Information Act, it must request a ruling from the Attorney General Open Records Division within 10 days of receipt of the request for information. Generally, a request for a ruling is necessary even when the Attorney General has determined that similar but not identical information does not have to be disclosed. The Attorney General typically issues a ruling within 45 days from the request.
Information that is confidential, private in nature, protected from disclosure under federal or state law, and information about which the public does not have a legitimate interest in knowing generally is not open to the public. Some examples of information that is not open to the public are: social security numbers, federal tax returns, medical information, student education records, information related to competitive bidding, information related to the price or appraisal of real property the University has an interest in acquiring, trade secrets, law enforcement matters that are under investigation or prosecution, internal audit work papers, tests and answer keys, personal credit and debit card information, the identity of private donors, the home addresses, telephone numbers and personal email addresses of employees who wish this information to remain private, and information relating to technological and scientific research being conducted by university and health science center faculty members.
There is no charge for obtaining fewer than 50 pages of information and generally there is no charge for inspecting information. A charge may be assessed when inspecting information if it is necessary to delete confidential information that cannot be disclosed to the public. There also may be a charge assessed to recover some of the cost of providing more than 50 pages of information. An itemized invoice shows the charges that can be charged when a fee is assessed.
A subpoena is a legal document that may be issued in a criminal, civil (lawsuit) or administrative proceeding. Generally, however, subpoenas received by faculty members and staff employees are issued for civil proceedings. Most often, subpoenas are issued to require a component institution to produce documents.
A subpoena may be served once a lawsuit is filed (or on special occasion before a lawsuit is filed) in order to require an individual to give testimony at a deposition, hearing or trial, or to give documents or other tangible things to one of the parties in the lawsuit. The subpoena must meet several specific requirements before it is legally enforceable. An attorney in the Office of General Counsel will review the subpoena to determine whether it is enforceable and, if not, take the necessary steps to inform the person who issued the subpoena or the court. An employee can be sanctioned by the court in which the case is pending for failing to respond to a subpoena within the timeframe set out in the document.
No. Attorneys in the Office of General Counsel cannot provide legal advice or representation to employees or students about legal issues of a personal nature, such as divorce, wills and landlord tenant issues. In addition, the OGC does not provide advice in matters unrelated to University business or to individuals whose interests are or may be adverse to the UNT System and its component institutions. If you need personal legal advice or representation, you may be able to obtain information and/or assistance from the resources listed below:
UNT Students with a legal issue may contact University Student Legal Services at (940) 565-2614 or visit the Student Legal Services office, currently located on the third floor of the Student Union.
UNT System and UNT Employees with a personal legal issue may qualify for limited legal assistance through the University’s Employee Assistance Program. To find out more about EAP, an employee may contact (800) 343-3822 or call the Employee Relations area of UNT Human Resources at (940) 565-4817.
UNTHSC employees with a personal legal issue may obtain limited legal assistance if they subscribe to the Texas Legal Protection Plan, which may be contacted at (800) 252-9346.
The State Bar of Texas maintains a Lawyer Referral Information Service, which is described on the State Bar web site. In addition, many county bar associations offer lawyer referral services. County bar associations are listed in local telephone directories and below are links to the Tarrant, Dallas and Denton County Bar Associations.
System and Institution employees are encouraged to fully and freely exercise their constitutional right to vote and to express their opinions regarding political candidates and issues. However, employees may not exercise these rights in a manner that suggests System or Institution endorsement of a cause or candidate. State law and Regents Rule 05.701.5 prohibit System and Institution employees from engaging in any political activity while on state time or utilizing state resources for any political activity. Employees also are prohibited from using official authority or influence or permitting the use of a program administered by the System, the System Administration, or an Institution to interfere with or affect the result of an election or nomination of a candidate or to achieve any other political purpose. It is also important to remember any communication with state or federal elected officials on behalf of an Institution or the System must first be coordinated through the Office of Government Relations. Click here to contact the Office of Government Relations.
For state law restrictions on political activities by state employees see Chapter 556 of the Texas Government Code. For more information on political campaign-related activities please see American Council on Education’s Political Campaign-Related Activities of and at Colleges and Universities (November 2007).
For guidance on whether a specific political activity is permitted, please contact the Office of General Counsel.
What constitutes directory information at University of North Texas at Dallas?