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Attorney General’s Office:  Public Records Procedures and Policies

It is our general policy to neither confirm nor deny any ongoing investigation of the Attorney General’s Office.

Public Records Policy

The public records policy of the Attorney General’s Office (“Office”) has been adopted in accordance with the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983, Section 25-61-1, et seq, Miss. Code Ann. (1972).  All records and portions of records not exempt from disclosure will be made available in accordance with the procedures outlined below.

Definitions

The following terms have been defined for purposes of this policy.

Public Record A public record shall mean any book, record, paper, account, letter, map, photograph, film, card, tape, recording or reproduction thereof, and any other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristic, having been used, being in use or prepared, possessed or retained for use in the conduct, transaction or performance of any business, transaction work, duty or function of the Office, or required to be maintained by the Attorney General.

Non-exempt Record A non-exempt record is that part of a public record which does not fall under one of the exceptions to or exemptions from disclosure in the Public Records Act.

Identifiable Record A record is identifiable if a reasonably specific description of the record has been given, such as the date of the record, the subject matter, division or person involved, etc. which will permit location or retrieval of the record.

Working Day A working day is any day other than a weekend, state holiday, or other day on which by executive order the Attorney General’s Office is authorized to be closed or all the employees of the Office are authorized to be absent.

Incident Report means a narrative description, if such narrative description exists and if such narrative description does not contain investigative information, of an alleged offense, and at a minimum shall include the name and identification of each person charged with and arrested for the alleged offense, the time, date and location of the alleged offense, and the property involved, to the extent this information is known.

Investigative report means records of a law enforcement agency containing information beyond the scope of the matters contained in an incident report, and generally will include, but not be limited to, the following matters if beyond the scope of the matters contained in an incident report:

(i) Records that are compiled in the process of detecting and investigating any unlawful activity or alleged unlawful activity, the disclosure of which would harm the investigation which may include crime scene reports and demonstrative evidence;

(ii) Records that would reveal the identity of informants and/or witnesses;

(iii) Records that would prematurely release information that would impede the public body’s enforcement, investigative or detection efforts;

(iv) Records that would disclose investigatory techniques and/or results of investigative techniques;

(v) Records that would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication;

(vi) Records that would endanger the life or safety of a public official or law enforcement personnel, or confidential informants or witnesses;

(vii) Records pertaining to quality control or PEER review activities; or

(viii) Records that would impede or jeopardize a prosecutor’s ability to prosecute the alleged offense.

Availability of Records

Access to all non-exempt records of the Office that have been properly requested, deemed subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act, and for which applicable cost payment has been made will be allowed at a scheduled time during regular business hours (8:00 to 5:00 on working days). These records will be made available for inspection and/or copying. If any public record which is held to be exempt from disclosure, as designated below, contains material which is not exempt, the Office shall separate the exempt material and make the non-exempt material available for examination and/or copying. The Attorney General or his designee has the authority to specify the mode, manner, time and place of access.

Procedures for Handling Public Record Requests

All requests to examine, copy or obtain public records, shall be in writing utilizing the standard Request for Public Records form, a copy of which is provided in Section 8.0.1 and at www.ago.state.ms.us. The request must identify the records, give the name, address and telephone number of the requesting agency or individual, and must be signed by the requesting party. This requirement may be waived on a case by case basis by the Attorney General or his designee to facilitate the orderly and timely release of the information.

Requests may be submitted by U.S. Mail to Opinions Division, P.O. Box 220, Jackson, Mississippi 39205; by facsimile to 601-359-5025; by email to openrecords@ago.state.ms.us.

The Office shall respond to the request in writing within 7 working days from the date of request. Denials shall contain the specific reasons for the denial. Copies of all denials shall be maintained on file by the Office for not less than three years from the date denial is made. The person making the request may appeal any denial directly to the Attorney General.

If the records will be disclosed, the Office will give an estimate of the total cost, if any, for compliance with the request. If the estimate is agreeable to the requestor, the Office will produce the records requested no later than 14 working days from the date the request and payment are received. Payments must be made by cash, check, money order, or cashier’s check.

Records furnished to the Office by third parties, which may contain trade secrets or confidential commercial or financial information, will not be released until reasonable notice to the third parties has been given. For the purpose of providing advance notice to submitter’s of trade secret or confidential commercial or financial information, twenty-five days from the submitter’s receipt of written notice shall be deemed a reasonable time for the disclosure of the requested records in the absence of a court order to the contrary.

Exempt Records

Any record expressly exempt from the Public Records Act or any record specifically declared to be exempt, confidential, or privileged by any other Mississippi statute, constitutional provision, or judicial order or directive, shall not be subject to inspection and copying. Those records which are specifically exempt by law and which fall within the jurisdiction of the Attorney General’s Office include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Personnel records and applications for employment, except those which may be released to the person who made the application or with the prior written consent of the person who made the application. Employee consent shall be recorded on the Authority to Release Information Form, a copy of which is provided as Section 2.1.1. This shall not be construed to prohibit the disclosure of the following information about employees: name, address, date of employment, length of employment, qualifications, and salary;
  • Test questions and answers which are to be used in employment examinations;
  • Letters of recommendation respecting any application for employment;
  • Records which represent and constitute the work product of any attorney and which are related to litigation initiated by or against the Attorney General and/or the Office or in anticipation of prospective litigation, including all communications between such attorney made in the course of an attorney/client relationship;
  • Appraisal information which concerns the sale or purchase of real or personal property for public purposes prior to public announcement of the purchase or sale, where the release of such records would have a detrimental effect on such sale or purchase;
  • Trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from outside government to the extent that disclosure would result in substantial harm to the competitive position of the person from whom or about whom the information was obtained;
  • Investigative records

Fees

Any person desiring copies of public records who does not officially represent a public body, as defined in the Public Records Act, shall be entitled to obtain mechanically reproduced copies at a charge of fifty cents ($.50) per page, which represents the actual cost of such reproduction. Official representatives of public bodies, as defined in the Public Records Act, shall be entitled to reasonable copies of such records with no charge.

If the searching, reviewing, duplicating or separating of non-exempt material from documents, etc., containing exempt material requires more than one hour of work, then any requesting party may be charged for the work time above an hour in addition to a mechanical reproduction charge of fifty cents ($.50) per page. The charge for the hours shall be based upon the hourly salary of the lowest paid employee of the Office qualified and available to do the job.

Mailing costs calculated at the applicable United States Postal Service rates shall be charged where appropriate. The cost of mailing a notice to third parties via certified mail, return receipt requested, shall be charged to persons requesting the public records.

Rules of Professional Conduct: Trial Publicity

(a) A lawyer shall not make an extrajudicial statement that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of public communication if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that it will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding.

(b) A statement referred to in paragraph (a) ordinarily is likely to have such an effect when it refers to a civil matter triable to a jury, a criminal matter, or any other proceeding that could result in incarceration, and the statement relates to:

  1. the character, credibility, reputation or criminal record of a party, suspect in a criminal investigation or witness, or the identity of a witness, or the expected testimony of a party or witness;
  2. in a criminal case or proceeding that could result in incarceration, the possibility of a plea of guilty to the offense or the existence or contents of any confession, admission, or statement given by a defendant or suspect or that person’s refusal or failure to make a statement;
  3. the performance or results of any examination or test of the refusal or failure of a person to submit to an examination or test, or the identity or nature of physical evidence expected to be presented;
  4. any opinion as to the guilt or innocence of a defendant or suspect in a criminal case or proceeding that could result in incarceration;
  5. information the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is likely to be inadmissible as evidence in a trial and would if disclosed create a substantial risk of prejudicing an impartial trial; or
  6. the fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime, unless there is included therein a statement explaining that the charge is merely an accusation and that the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

(c) Notwithstanding paragraph (a) and (b)(1-5), a lawyer involved in the investigation or litigation of a matter may state without elaboration:

  1. the general nature of the claim or defense;
  2. the information contained in a public record;
  3. that an investigation of the matter is in progress, including the general scope of the investigation, the offense or c aim or defense involved and, except when prohibited by law, the identity of the persons involved;
  4. the scheduling or result of any step in litigation;
  5. a request for assistance in obtaining evidence and information necessary thereto;
  6. a warning of danger concerning the behavior of a person involved, when there is reason to believe that there exist the likelihood of substantial harm to an individual or to the public interest; and
  7. in a criminal case: (i) the identity, residence, occupation and family status of the accused; (ii) if the accused has not been apprehended, information necessary to aid in apprehension of that person; (iii) the fact, time and place of arrest; and (iv) the identity of investigating and arresting officers or agencies and the length of the investigation.

UNIFORM CIRCUIT AND COUNTY COURT RULES: GRAND JURY SECRECY

A grand juror, except when called as a witness in court, shall keep secret the proceedings and actions taken in reference to matters brought before the grand jury for six months after final adjournment of the grand jury and the name and testimony of any witness appearing before the grand jury shall be kept secret. No grand juror, witness, attorney general, district attorney, county attorney, other prosecuting attorney, clerk, sheriff or other officer of the court shall disclose to any unauthorized person that an indictment is being found or returned into court against a defendant or disclose any action or proceeding in relation to the indictment before the finding of an indictment or within six months thereafter or before the defendant is arrested or gives bail or recognizance. No attorney general, district attorneys, county attorneys, or any other prosecuting attorneys or any other officer of the court shall announce to any unauthorized person what the grand jury will consider in its deliberations. If such information is disclosed, the disclosing person may be found in contempt of court punishable by fine or imprisonment.