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Friday, January 18, 2008

A HUGE Victory in Texas...

A Texas appeals court ruled Thursday that state employees' birth dates are public and must be released, a decision hailed by open-government advocates.

The state comptroller's office sought to withhold date-of-birth information from The Dallas Morning News, citing concerns about possible identity theft. But the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Austin upheld a lower court ruling rejecting that argument and said the comptroller hadn't proved its claim.

"The speculative and unproven threat of identity theft is insufficient to exempt date-of-birth information from disclosure," the court said.

The comptroller's office said it was disappointed by the ruling and was considering an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court. "No private sector employer is required to release to the public its employees' date-of-birth information," spokesman R.J. DeSilva said, "and we believe government employees should have the same protection."

David Starr, vice president and deputy general counsel of Belo Corp., The News' parent company, said the outcome is an important open-records victory. "This ruling will help The News keep an eye on how state government spends taxpayer dollars and how public employees do their jobs," he said.

More here, including pithy quotes from yours truly.

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