Attorney General

Illinois Supreme Court rules in favor of Plaintiff on FOIA case –

SPRINGFIELD, IL. (ECWd) –

We reported on this FOIA case when the Illinois Supreme Court granted our petition to file an Amicus Curiae Brief in support of plaintiff (read it here).

Plaintiff Perry and the Institute for Justice filed a Freedom of Information Act request for public records from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations. The request was denied, and a request for review was filed with the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor where it sat for more than a year with no determination.

The Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court, during the pendency of the suit the IDFPR actively sought a change in the FOIA to prohibit the release of the documents requested under the FOIA. The amendment to FOIA was signed into law, and the Circuit Court granted and denied in parts, Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff Motioned to Reconsider, and the Circuit Court denied the Motion to Reconsider ruling that the records were exempt.

The IDFPR appealed to the Appellate Court, who ruled against Plaintiff (upholding toe Circuit Court’s decision) citing that FOIA now prohibited the release of those records requested, and retroactively applied the amendment.

The Institute for Justice appealed that decision to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Video of the Supreme Court’s March 15, 2018 Hearing on this case is below:

Today, the Illinois Supreme Court published its ruling overturning the Appellate Court and remanding the case back to the Circuit Court with the following conclusion:

Illinois’s retroactivity analysis governs where a change of law becomes effective during the pendency of a lawsuit. Because the legislature did not clearly prescribe its intent as to whether sections 2105-117 and 4-24 should be applied to pending lawsuits, we considered whether, under section 4 of the Statute on Statutes,
the changes in law are procedural or substantive. As both sections 2105-117 and 4-24 are substantive changes to the law, sections 2105-117 and 4-24 are to apply prospectively only. Accordingly, as to Perry, we reverse the grant of summary judgment for the Department with directions that the circuit court hold a hearing to reconsider whether Perry is also entitled to disclosure of the subject complaint in a redacted form and, if Perry is the prevailing party, whether Perry is entitled to attorney fees under section 11(i). See 5 ILCS 140/11(i) (West 2016). We also direct the circuit court to hold a hearing on section 11(j) civil penalties. With respect to the Institute, we reverse the appellate court’s order and reinstate the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Institute.

The main issue was whether or not the change to FOIA was retroactive when the legislature did not specifically make it retroactive.

You can view below or download at this link.

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8 replies »

  1. I agree – FOIA intemidition requester laws should be in place – city officials can take it very offensively when you do a FOIA request , especially in small towns. Will write a letter requesting laws for protection on those filing. It’s public’s right to ask & see information and when you request there should not be intimidation of any kind! Let’s all call out lawmakers & request it.

  2. FOIA is a great tool, but Illinois needs to put some teeth into it. Specifically, when civilians FOIA a local government or local police department for records and then find themselves targeted by the local police to be watched immediately after filing FOIA requests, civilians should be able to sue for FOIA intimidation. It should be illegal to intimidate for using the Freedom of Information Act.

    The Village of LaGrange Park, IL likes to pretend they are not monitoring anyone, yet FOIA requesters have logs and video evidence that make it appear to reasonable persons that this is precisely what they do. They appear to be sending their goon squad police to show up and sit outside the Jewel supermarket to make their presence known to FOIA requesters that they are being watched. I’m sorry, but shopping is not a crime. Why show up to stare people down as they simply exit a Jewel with groceries? Especially people with no criminal record, but who just happen to be very active FOIA requesters? Intimidation tactic perchance?

    This should be illegal. A government not placing FOIA requesters under surveillance should try not behaving as if they are. Intimidation is the oldest tactic in the book. It is high time Illinoisans got their elected reps down in Springfield to pass a FOIA requester Protection From Intimidation and Harassment Law.

    A police department that has been in the news for tasering a diabetic in the middle of a seizure, for having two former detectives indicted for extortion and for having been sued for excessive force along with officers from the Brookfield, IL police department should be working to improve police/civilian relationships, not behave as if they are targeting FOIA requesters for intimidation via surveillance. How many other FOIA requesters have been targeted by local governments throughout Illinois? Call your reps in Springfield to get a law passed. Let’s put some real teeth into FOIA!

    Keep up the fantastic work, Edgar County Watchdogs, by shining sunlight into the shadows of Illinois government corruption.

    • Just to add…

      All potential Freedom of Information Act requesters out there should know about this resource, the Citizen Advocacy Center in Elmhurst, Illinois. They do something called FOIA Fest to teach citizens how to hold their governments accountable.

      http://foiaillinois.org/blog/

      If activists throughout the entire State of Illinois learned to use this transparency tool, how much MORE corruption, waste, fraud and abuse could be uncovered? Let’s ALL become Watchdogs and turn our state around!

      Woof woof

    • And forgot to add this resource as well:

      You can publicly use FOIA by utilizing Muckrock and uploading your records requests.

      Here’s a link to a Muckrock piece that was written to show that the FBI placed FOIA requesters under investigation.

      https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2017/dec/12/fbi-foia-investigation/

      For real? OMG if the Feds are labeling FOIA requests as “SUSPICIOUS,” just imagine these local governments thinking they will fly under the radar by investigating, intimidating and monitoring civilians.

      Question: What kind of government is paranoid about its people finding out public information?

      Answer: A corrupt one with something to hide!

      FOIA is your friend. Let’s contact our reps down in Springfield and ask them to craft a bigger, badder and better FOIA with built in protections/legal remedies for public bodies that harass, investigate or intimidate lawful Freedom of Information Act requesters.

  3. The world is definitely a better place with two fine men such as Kirk and John. Catching the bug from them is contagious! So much to Learn! Keep us the awesome amazing work Edgar County Watch Dogs!

  4. Congrats to all of you for your hard work to make things better for we the people! Thanks for never giving up or giving in!

  5. Since the public body went to such extraordinary lengths to avoid releasing the records, I can’t help but ask, what was the FOIA request asking for?

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